Stereotypes and Their Lingering Effects

The Lingering Stereotype

Something that minorities and women must deal with is the stereotype effect. When you get passed over after raising your hand, get ignored when you say something, get a funny look, you wonder, “Is it because I am …”

Sadly, sometimes this is true. However, we as a society are becoming less racist and sexist, so every interaction does not end with it was sexist. But the scars of just one sexist or racist incident can still linger and burn in the minds of those who were victims of it. Stereotypes linger.

Studies of Responses to Stereotypes

A recent piece from NPR investigates the effect of stereotypes on women.

One example of how negative stereotypes affect students was shown in an experiment done by Claude Steel. Women who were reminded that men outperform women on a math test ended up measurably lower scores. Thus, if we live in a culture where women are perceived to be worse at math, this could have an effect on women’s performance on math tests.

Another study was done by Toni Schmader and Matthias Mehl, in which recording devices were attached to women in science fields. The findings were that women were less engaged in conversations about their field with male colleagues than they were with female colleagues. The conclusion from this study was that its possible when women talk to men about research in their field, the stereotype is activated in the woman’s mind. Energy is wasted concerning whether or not the colleague may hold the stereotype, or even making sure she is not acting like the a stereotype of women in science.

Improving Education

It is possible that giving students a confidence boost will help with performance. One study showed that having women do a writing exercise before taking a test helped to improve their performance. Scientists think that this test helped to raise confidence and take the students’ minds off of stereotypes.

These findings are important for raising awareness around this issue. It may also be important to recognize the preexisting stereotypes in the classroom to help women become more engaged with their classmates and perform better overall.

5 responses to “Stereotypes and Their Lingering Effects

  1. Good thoughts. I have run into more than one female who says “I’m just no good at math.” She has obviously convinced herself or been convinced and therefore has quit trying. By the way, I’m a male and I’m not great at math either!

  2. Do you find that all scientific fields are male-dominated or just some of them? I ask because in my field (biology) women are prominent. I haven’t actually done a head-count but I’d be surprised if women weren’t the majority in nearly every lab where I’ve worked. Just now I’m awaiting the outcome of a pre-proposal for new research funding, written by a team of which I’m one and all of use happen to be women.

    When it comes to working with the numbers, I love stats! and I know plenty of other women who do too. There’s a real issue with ‘I’ve never been any good at Maths’ in the students I teach but that’s more of a generation thing than a gender thing, I find.

    • I certainly see more women entering fields in biology and chemistry as well, and I think there are fields of science that may be fairly balanced or have even more women than men. When I worked in a physics department, there were two labs that focused on biophysics, and these labs greatly increased the number of female students in the entire department. I have heard the argument that women are attracted to biology more than other sciences because they enjoy studying life and things relating to people. Then again, I have also heard women who were majoring in chemistry tell me that physics was hard and that they would never touch engineering. This was interesting to me because chemistry does use math and physics.

      There are so many branches and views surrounding women in STEM fields. What drew you to the biological sciences?

      • Belated response… for me it was always going to be biology. A few attempts were made to tempt me into other sciences and into arts, but those never appealed. The question was just which kind of biological science.

        Now that I’m writing Science on the Land, I’m following my heart and blogging about what I want to blog about. It’s nearly always about that same topics which fascinated me when I was a little girl.

        I feel quite blessed in that sense. I know plenty of people who never really knew what they wanted to be when they grew up, or who don’t like feeling grown up. But none of that is me.

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