In Faculty Evaluations, Men Are Far More Likely Than Women to Be Referred to as “Brilliant” or “Genius”

university-of-illinois-billiard-logoA study led by researchers at the University of Illinois tabulated the frequency of the words “brilliant” and “genius” in over 14 million reviews on, a popular website where students can write anonymous evaluations of their instructors. The results showed that the frequency of the use of these two terms to describe faculty members in particular disciplines was directly related to the number of women employed in these fields.

In short, fields with the most women in teaching positions were the least likely to have faculty evaluations where the words brilliant or genius were used. In turn, fields where there are few women in teaching posts, were the most likely to have faculty described as brilliant or genius.

The authors write that “across the fields represented on, superlatives about intelligence were used 2 to 3 times more often about male than about female instructors — a difference that further illustrates our culture’s negative attitudes toward women’s intellects.”

The study, “The Frequency of ‘Brilliant’ and ‘Genius’ in Teaching Evaluations Predicts the Representation of Women and African Americans Across Fields,” was published in the open-access, peer-reviewed online journal PLOS ONE. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: FacultyGender GapResearch/Study


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