Sex Roles

, Volume 69, Issue 11–12, pp 605–617 | Cite as

Is School Feminine? Implicit Gender Stereotyping of School as a Predictor of Academic Achievement

  • Anke Heyder
  • Ursula Kessels
Original Article


One cause proposed for boys’ relatively lower academic achievement is a “feminisation” of schools that might result in a lack of fit between boys’ self-concept and academic engagement. Research so far has investigated math-male and language-female stereotypes, but no school-female stereotypes. Our study tested for implicit gender stereotyping of school and its impact on boys’ achievement in N = 122 ninth-graders from a large city in Western Germany using the Go/No-go Association Task (GNAT). Gender role self-concept and grades in math (representing an academic domain stereotyped as male) and German (domain stereotyped as female) were assessed using written questionnaires. It was found that, overall, students associated school more strongly with female than with male, and that this association of school with female was related to boys’ academic achievement. The more strongly boys associated school with female and the more they ascribed negative masculine traits to themselves, the lower their grades in German were. Boys’ academic achievement in math was unrelated to the extent to which they perceived school as feminine and themselves as masculine. Girls’ grades in both German and math were unrelated to their gender stereotyping of school. These findings emphasize the importance of fit between a student’s gender, gender role self-concept and gender stereotyping of school for academic achievement. Strategies to improve this fit are discussed.


Gender gap in academic achievement Gender role self-concept Implicit measures Stereotypes School 


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Education and PsychologyFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany

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