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Female students benefit from having female teachers


Economist Ulf Zölitz is studying how the gender composition of students in the classroom and the gender of the teachers are affecting the performance of the students. This week he held a seminar at the Department of Economics.

You say that female students benefit from having female teachers, can you explain why? And why isn’t there the same affect if we look at male students and male teachers?

– One potential explanation for this effect is that female university instructors tailor their instruction style more towards the needs of their female students than their male colleagues do. Additionally female students - in contrast to male students - seem to become more interested and involved in subjects that are being taught by same-sex instructors which raises their performance in these fields.

What made you look at this subject?

– Over the last decades the gender performance gap in education has reversed. Women are outperforming men everywhere! From the start of kindergarten until the end of university education girls perform better. Despite this development we still observe few female professors in universities and few women in leading positions in firms. I would like to better understand this puzzle and investigate how gender effects in education translate into the gender differences we observe in firms and universities.

Based on your experience, how can we get more female professors?

– I think that gender role models are important for making the first step towards a career in academia. One of the results of my paper is that female students become more likely to start a career in academia when they had more female instructors in university. Perhaps well-target mentoring programs might be one way of raising the proportion of female academics in the long run.

Ulf Zölitz is a Research Associate at the Institute for the Study of Labour (IZA) in Bonn. For more information please visit his website: