Active History is celebrating its tenth anniversary! As part of our anniversary celebrations we are sharing glimpses of how Active History developed and showcasing our favourite and most popular posts from the past ten years.
Today we are revisiting 2017 which included a number of great series including: Women’s Social and Political Activism in the Canadian West, Deconstructing Children’s Books, Archives and Archival Labour, History Curriculum, and Income Tax Centenary.
We also started our partnership with the Graphic History Collective and their Remember/Resist/Redraw project and we co-sponsored the Beyond 150: Telling Our Stories Twitter conference.
In 2017 one of our most popular posts was Andrea Eidinger’s “She’s Hot: Female Sessional Instructors, Gender Bias, and Student Evaluations.” To date, this post has been viewed 53,251 times, making it our second most popular post of all time – only surpassed by Crystal Fraser and Sara Komarnisky’s 150 Acts of Reconciliation for the Last 150 Days of Canada’s 150 which also appeared in 2017.
Girl sitting at desk flipping through textbook pages at Putnam School. 1961. Gar Lunney. Canada. National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque. Library and Archives Canada, e010976007. CC by 2.0. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lac-bac/7797311412/
by Andrea Eidinger 
I would like to acknowledge and thank the many female instructors who got in touch with me over the past week, not only for their bravery in sharing their experiences with me, but for their strength in continuing in their dedication to the field of history and education. I am profoundly grateful and honoured.
“I think your feminist stances are slightly overcorrecting reality. I’m sure minorities had a harsher experience than women, ESPECIALLY today, a point you seem to overlook. You’re a really nice person though.”
That comment comes from my student evaluations from one of the first courses I ever taught, back when I was still a graduate student. At the time that I read that, I burst out laughing. I mean really, how else can you react to that kind of statement? But many courses and student evaluations later, I am starting to think that this is reflective of a larger problem in the world of academia, and history in particular, with respect to female sessional instructors and course evaluations.
Over the course of the past year or so, there have been a number of studies that have emerged detailing the gender bias against female instructors in student evaluations. According to one study, male professors routinely ranked higher than female professors in many areas.  For instance, male professors received scores in the area of promptness (how quickly an assignment was returned) that were 16% higher than those of female instructors, even though the assignments were returned at the exact same time. Another research project, which examined word usage in reviews of male and female professors on “Rate My Professor” found that male faculty members are more likely to be described as “funny,” “brilliant,” “genius,” and “arrogant,” while female faculty members are more likely to be described as “approachable,” “helpful,” “nice,” and “bossy.”
While many of these studies discuss the negative impact that this bias has on tenure and promotion few consider how devastating they can be to sessional instructors, particularly given the overrepresentation of women at this academic rank. Continue reading