Gender Gaps: Opposite Gaps in Confidence and School Performance across Gender

genderMed2  “If life were one long grade school, women would be the undisputed rulers of the world,” (Kay and Shipman 2014). Thinking about my personal experience with grade school, I couldn’t agree more. The first and foremost example that comes to mind is spending every year of my K-12 schooling with my twin brother. Though rivalry between any siblings is natural, rivalry between twins is unparalleled. Sharing a teacher, parents, large portions of DNA and many other facets of life, one would think we’d have equal footing when it came to school success. However, year after year, I showed up with a better report card and a more positive parent-teacher conference. I’m not saying that I am any smarter than him, but I simply received better results in school. This situation is not unique to me; “girls have made higher grades than boys throughout their school years for nearly a century, according to a new analysis published by the American Psychological Association” and every year women receive more undergraduate and master’s degrees than men (Voyer 2014).

Funnily enough, while the student performance gap between males and females persists, an opposite gap exists in confidence. This gap is equally seen between my twin and I. Unlike me, he has no hesitation speaking up and asking for help, questioning a decision that he disagrees with, or walking up and introducing himself to someone. Similarly, “In studies, men overestimate their abilities and performance, and women underestimate both. Their performances do not differ in quality” (Kay and Shipman 2014).


I can’t help but notice a correlation between women often doing well in school, but lacking in confidence. For me, the connection is clear. American education often rewards compliance and traits associated with compliance, and these same traits are the ones traditionally taught to women from the moment they are born. For example, the ability to sit quietly, listen to and follow instructions are closely aligned with teachers’ rules and ones’ ability to complete many school assignments. These exact same traits are traditionally qualify a woman as ‘proper’ or ‘good’. Not questioning authority, as well as these other compliance related traits directly oppose self advocacy, and in turn, confidence.  This vicious cycle of messages sent to girls, and obedience based schooling has led to a system where despite performing better in school women do not achieve the same as men professionally.

Many have suggested that education as a whole should be reformed to a more appropriate system of creativity and exploration that could better foster to the needs of the 21st century. This could be applicable to both males and females and cater to high school performance and high confidence – both important factors in today’s college and career pathways. Additionally, Understanding of the inherent differences between every student, but having crucial conversations about how genders are portrayed differently could boost a Jenny’s confidence and readjust a teacher’s expectations for Johnny to the same high level. The active recognition of gender stereotypes can hopefully lead to a system of equal expectations and equitable support for all children in the American school system.

Lena Parker


Works Cited

Kay, Katty, and Claire Shipman. “The Confidence Gap.” Atlantic 14 Apr. 2014: n. pag. Web.

Voyer, Daniel. “Girls Make Higher Grades than Boys in All School Subjects, Analysis FindsGirls Make Higher Grades than Boys in All School Subjects, Analysis Finds.” American Psychological Association 29 Apr. 2014: n. pag. Web.


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