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.
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.