The fact that women tend to have higher grade point averages than men was proven on the national level, but is also noticed locally at UW-River Falls.
This study was done by the National Center for Education Statistics and evaluated the academic standings of 4,640 students who attended four-year colleges like UWRF, from 1992 up until 1996. What the researchers found was that women earned higher GPAs than men.
The idea of women having higher grades was obvious for UWRF freshman Simone Petersen, who just compared the study habits of men and women.
“I never see guys studying. I always see girls, so I assume that girls’ are higher,” said Petersen.
UWRF sophomore Derrick Gath also said he had noticed men studying less than women.
“I feel that we don’t necessarily care as much, but we just don’t put the effort into it to get the best grade,” said Gath.
As can be expected, these ideas have been reflected in studies.
“I just read a study recently that suggest that girls might be a little more focused in their studying and a little more, quote unquote, serious about studying than boys,” said Associate Professor of Psychology Melanie Ayres.
Ayres also noted that while studying could be one factor, “people have looked at a whole range of factors that have influence that or may be influencing that.”
These factors can include pressures from instructors to do well, or families where “parents may push daughters to achieve more poetically because we assume that boys have an innate ability,” said Ayres.
This idea that women are targeted to be pushed more in the academic studies, so that men are off the pressure radar would be taking it too far. While a correlation has been made, the GPA gap is not large.
Here at UWRF, the average female graduates with a 3.62 GPA, while the average male graduates with a 3.52 GPA.
The idea that a students GPA is limited to their gender’s GPA range was not something that UWRF junior Matthew Faveere thought was a strong enough reason for them to do well or poorly in school.
“I don’t think either gender has specifically higher GPAs. I believe it depends more on the person than on the gender. I think its more their personal background,” said Faveere.
It is this personal background or, as Ayres named it, the environment that a person is raised in that can determine their success.
“I’ve seen some research on math performance over time from early elementary school into college and what we see when we look long term is no gender differences when we’re young, and then, starting in adolescence, is when we start to see some gender differences. Again this is suggesting something about the environment that might be affecting kids,” said Ayres.
If the environmental impacts really do foreshadow success or failure, then these same environments could be causing men and women to lean into their stereotypic roles.
Ayres used the example of the physics department on campus.
“I just walked by a physics class and there were no women in the class- like the whole class was full of men,” said Ayres.
This could be because women are not as encouraged as men are to pursue the math and science related careers, like architecture or chemistry that are known as the harder classes. If men are pushed to do more difficult courses while women are encouraged to do courses that are thought to not be as difficult, that could also be a reason for male GPAs to be lower, since men are taking harder classes.
At the same time, Aryes is not trying to label women as unmotivated. She just sees them as not being pushed in that direction.
“I don’t think girls are opting for easier classes – we’re smart, we’re studious, we like challenging classes too, but I think there are some differences overall in the classes that we take,” said Aryes.
With that being said, a student’s grades imply the amount of knowledge that they can relate to a career in the future.
“Even though girls are doing better in school in a lot of ways, who ends up getting the high paying prestigious jobs? It’s men,” said Ayres.