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Are girls discriminated against in the Sciences? Lessons from the ENS competitive entrance exams

Abstract : Stereotypes and social norms push girls towards studying the humanities rather than the sciences. The aim of this IPP Note is to examine the extent to which professors are liable to reinforce this self-selection by discriminating against girls who try to enter male-dominated disciplines. Using the competitive entrance exams for the École normale supérieure de Paris as a “natural experiment”, we show that in reality, the reverse phenomenon is at work. Discrimination occurs in favour of girls in the traditionally male-dominated disciplines (mathematics and philosophy, for example), and in favour of boys in the subjects considered the most “feminine” (biology and literature), slightly reducing gender segregation between the disciplines. The tendency of examiners to discriminate on the basis of a candidate’s gender is identified by the differences between the results of anonymous written tests (which neutralise gender discrimination) and oral tests (where the candidate’s sex is known to the examiners). This discrimination goes against gender stereotypes, which is likely to be explained by the fact that examiners try – consciously or not – to help the minority gender in their discipline. The results suggest that girls can follow study paths traditionally reserved for boys, without fear of being discriminated against.
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Contributor : Caroline Bauer <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, March 31, 2020 - 9:03:22 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, January 19, 2021 - 11:08:58 AM


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  • HAL Id : halshs-02527002, version 1



Thomas Breda, Son Thierry Ly. Are girls discriminated against in the Sciences? Lessons from the ENS competitive entrance exams. 2014. ⟨halshs-02527002⟩



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