New American Media has an awesome collection of quotes from high school kids in San Francisco on the subject of gender. Apparently common gender stereotypes are shifting to coincide with women having a majority on college campuses and getting close to it in the workplace.
Some quotes that stuck out to me:
I feel like women are considered weird if they don’t care as much about their education/job/overall success. Men, on the other hand, can’t care too much, or they become a teacher’s pet/kiss-ass/workaholic. Guys are allowed to not care.
When I was in middle school, I did notice a sort of group of girls, who were – to me – known as the “uber-girls”: consistent note takers, flash card makers, excellent organizers, and multi-hour studiers. (But) as a guy, I feel that this idea that guys don’t try is absurd. The point is that guys do try, and we do our best. We may not be “uber-guys” but we are striving for as much success as girls are.
I do well in school, but I don’t brag about it like a lot of the girls in my class. As a sophomore, college is in the back of my mind. I’m not worrying about it like so many of the girls in my class. Maybe that’s why the female graduation rate is so much higher than that of the male. I have confidence in the fact that I will attend college and get a decent job, so I don’t work as hard as I could. Hopefully this won’t come back and bite me in the ass.
I definitely see this reflected in my school - not that boys are unintelligent or unmotivated, but they seem to put forth less effort for the success they have. I'm in the sort of classes where people are trying out outdo each other in class rank, and the boys in the top ten never seen to make a big deal about it; it's the girls who stress out, compare number of AP classes, etc.
Also, interestingly, the class where I see my male friends putting forth the most sincerely enthusiastic effort is math. It is not weird, at my school, for a guy to be visibly excited for an AP Calculus test. If the same guy were as excited about English, people would think it strange. I also have guy friends who focus all their energy into art, or dance, or history, and are willing to coast more on areas that aren't their favorite, whereas girls tend to worry about everything.
A thought: The way I notice girls dealing with school works more with liberal art colleges, where you study a little bit of everything; contrasted with the way I notice boys dealing with school, which reminds me of college in Europe where you jump right into your major and learn about more narrow subjects. More girls attend college in the United States; I'd be interested to compare those statistics to the UK or Canada, where the style of education is different.