"A new study from Indiana University suggests that gender stereotypes about women's
ability in mathematics negatively impact their performance. And in a
significant twist, both men and women wrongly believe those stereotypes
will not undermine women's math performance—but instead motivate them to
perform better." according to Phys.Org.
The research, led by IU social psychologist Kathryn L. Boucher, appears early online in the May issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
"This study's implications go beyond the classroom into the many other social environments where negative stereotypes about women play a role," said Boucher, a postdoctoral research associate in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. "They force us to ask whether people not affected by similar stereotypes can effectively recognize and find ways to reduce their impact. It also puts into perspective the enormous challenge of eliminating the effects of stereotypes despite growing awareness about their harm to women and society."
A recent example of "stereotype threats" Boucher and collaborators point to is the current lawsuit in California brought by venture capitalist Ellen Pao alleging years of discriminatory practices and attitudes based on gender that she says prevented her advancement at a Silicon Valley venture capital firm.
"This study has major implications for women in technology and business environments, where women's abilities are regularly impugned by negative stereotypes," said Mary C. Murphy, assistant professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at IU Bloomington, who oversaw the study. "These are the places where women are most likely to experience stereotype threat—and if their supervisors and co-workers cannot anticipate how these threats interfere with performance, that's a serious problem. It's one of the ways women end up underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math."
The study's main goal was to find out whether observers could recognize the anxiety and underperformance experienced by women when judged under negative stereotypes. In the IU study, over 150 study participants, split nearly evenly between men and women, were given 10 minutes to solve seven difficult math problems on a computer with no scrap paper.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology