Students see male professors as brilliant geniuses, female professors as bossy and annoying


Students tend to think their male professors are “geniuses,” while their female professors are “bossy,” a new interactive chart reveals. Using data from, a popular forum for griping or raving about classes, Benjamin Schmidt, a Northeastern University professor, was able to clearly map out students’ biases.

The chart breaks down reviews to sort which words are affiliated with each gender and discipline. According to The Upshot, “Men are more likely to be described as a star, knowledgeable, awesome or the best professor. Women are more likely to be described as bossy, disorganized, helpful, annoying or as playing favorites. Nice or rude are also more often used to describe women than men.”

As the aggregation below shows, students are much more likely to call their male professors “geniuses.”

Female professors, meanwhile, are far more likely to be called “feisty,” especially if they teach humanities classes.

The tool helps illustrate student biases that are only beginning to come to light. A December 2014 study found that students consistently rated teachers higher if they thought they were male.


Gendered language is one way those biases manifest themselves, and can do significant damage to women’s professional and personal lives. A recent analysis of performance reviews in the tech industry found that women were far more likely to receive criticism from their supervisors. The word “abrasive” was used many times to describe female employees, but never appeared in a review for any of the men.

“Abrasive” is also more likely to be used to describe a female professor on RateMyProfessor:

Academia, despite its reputation as a meritocracy, also harbors biases against women and minorities. Faculty are much more likely to respond to mentoring requests from white men, according to one recent study, while female academics struggle more to get funding and positive peer reviews for their research.