Gender Issues


When people of the opposite sex interact, there is always the possibility of miscommunication due to the gender difference. We all carry cultural baggage that biases our perceptions. Sometimes there is the added complication of being attracted to that person (or of that person being attracted to you). This leads to important ethical issues, some of which are addressed in the ethics document which TAs are expected to read and sign. Some issues are more subtle.

Encouraging Students to Interact in Class

Researchers have found that women are often ignored in class. Both male and female instructors seem to more readily respond to and encourage classroom input from males. Males also tend to be more aggressive and often just speak up and interrupt. Females often need to receive positive encouragement.

Female students often "put themselves down" when they do speak up in class. They might prefix their statement with "This is probably not important, but ..." You need to encourage all students but especially female students who seem to be shy and/or uncertain.

Foreign TAs

You may come from a background where females have different rolls in society than here in the United States. This will make your job extra difficult since you are expected to behave in a manner that is appropriate for this country. If you are at all uncertain as to what is appropriate behavior, consult with fellow American grad students and faculty and staff in the Department.


Even within the American culture, there are widely differing opinions as to what constitutes appearance of propriety. Again, consult with fellow students when in doubt. It is better to err on the side of propriety.

One way to avoid problems when meeting with students of the opposite sex is to keep everything open. During the day, if you meet in your office, keep your door open and or have an officemate present. If you need to meet with a student at night, don't make it too late and possibly meet in public open places with other people around.

Some of this may seem overly cautious, but especially if you are unsure of yourself, this could avoid trouble or misunderstandings.


Also note from the Center for Teaching and Learning: Info