College & Workforce Readiness Opinion

The Male Professor as Open Book?

By Eduwonkette — March 21, 2008 1 min read

I didn’t notice until a friend pointed it out, but there are no female profs quoted in this NYT article on professors’ internet show-and-tell:

Certainly, professors have embraced the Internet since its earliest days, using it as a scholarly avenue of communication, publication and debate. Now it is common for many to reveal more personal information that has little connection to their work.

Some do so in hopes it will attract attention for a book or paper they have written; others do so inadvertently, joining Facebook to communicate with students and then finding themselves lured deeper by its various applications.

Many, though, say that by divulging family history and hobbies, they hope to appear more accessible to students.

Her take was that it’s trickier for female academics - especially young ones - to be taken seriously with personal information aflutter. Certainly I’ve heard more junior women on the job market belabor their personal presentation - the website photo, the outfit, the shoes, etc. Too bad the NYT missed the gender angle. But who needs insight when you’ve got professors on roller skates?

On a related research note, check out Daniel Hamermesh’s paper, Beauty in the Classroom, which finds that attractive professors receive better course evaluations. Hot male profs receive higher returns to their attractiveness than do hot female profs (which also means that unattractive male profs get penalized more than unattractive female profs). The authors argue that the positive relationship between beauty and evaluations represents a productivity effect, not just a discrimination effect. In other words, are attractive faculty really better teachers, perhaps because students pay more attention? Could the same apply in high school? If Alexander Russo’s TFA crushes tell us anything, the answer may be yes.

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