Stereotype Threat in a Real-Life Setting
A great post at eduwonkette looks at gender and stereotype threat in math performance. Stereotype threat has been well-documented in “laboratory” settings, but eduwonkette reports on a study in a real-life setting:
These men and women were, by all accounts, in the pipeline for math and science careers. Students in the “gender nullifying” treatment read just a few extra sentences before taking their tests:
What about gender differences? This mathematics test has not shown any gender differences in performance or mathematics ability. The test has been piloted in many mathematics courses across the nation to determine how reliable and valid the test is for measuring mathematics ability. Analysis of thousands of students’ test results has shown that males and females perform equally well on this test. In other words, this mathematics test shows no gender differences.
In the control group, the test was administered under normal conditions, and women and men performed equally. But women who received the “gender nullifying” treatment (reading the statement above) outperformed men. The authors concluded that “even among the most highly qualified and persistent women in college mathematics, stereotype threat suppresses test performance.”
What to make of this? Does this support what some people claim, which is that women on average have to be better than men just to persist in the pipeline in math, science, and engineering? In which case, the “gender nullifying” treatment released some or all of their true capabilities. Eduwonkette goes on to speculate about what interventions, if any, we should undertake given this information. Don’t worry guys, she also asks the “but what about the boys?” question so you don’t have to feel left out for even a second!
Hat tip to Women in Science for pointing me to this.
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Zuska is the kick-ass alter-ego of Suzanne E Franks. When not dispensing Zuska's wisdom, Suzanne can often be found gardening, reading, or having one of her thrice-weekly migraines.
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