Stereotype threat is an interesting concept that not many are aware of. It is a very common phenomenon that unfortunately happens to everybody everywhere. Stereotype threat is simply defined as a situational predicament in which people are or feel themselves to be at risk of conforming to stereotypes about their social group. For example, there are a group of students, male and female, taking a standardized math/science test. Before they begin the test, the proctor asks them to fill in their gender on the sheet given to them. This immediately switches on a stereotype in the girls’ minds to which they subconsciously need to conform to. Therefore, the girls in the room do worse than the boys.
In our society, stereotypes towards women are definitely not as prominent as they used to be. Decades ago, women were supposed to stay home to cook and clean and tend to the children. Since they were home all day, women weren’t in school and learning. Being 2018, more women have amazing educations and jobs which would not have been expected in the early twentieth century. From housewives to CEO’s, women are still affected by stereotypes from the past and the present. By confirming one’s gender prior to a math/science exam, the girls in the class mindlessly begin to conform to the stereotype that was preexisting in their head. Their performance on the test is not exactly accurate. A study done by Josh Aronson shows that women actually receive higher scores when they are not asked to confirm their gender until after the test is completed.
Stereotype threat is very dangerous thing. Society has increased its open-mindedness a great amount, but why are women (and other minorities as well) being demeaned just by mentioning a biological trait? Why are there still women in 2018 still believe that they are not smart enough to pursue a mathematical or scientific career? At this point in time it is hard to put blame on a single party for what is happening due to the passing down of certain beliefs in different cultures. Society could blame our ancestors but that would not do women any good because it is in the past.
Aforementioned, the definition of stereotype threat is a situational predicament in which people are or feel themselves to be at risk of conforming to stereotypes about their social group. To the people effected, though, it is so much more than just a predicament. It could be defined as an extremely inhibiting situation that many are not even aware of where stereotypes are brought to the surface and lead individuals to conform to them without their knowledge.
It is hard to blame somebody nor would that do women any good. Society can expose us to more powerful women. There are many powerful men in our society. Basically, our whole country is run by men. Little girls growing up in a world where all of the people in charge are men can really sway them the wrong way. Parents can tell their daughters about how powerful women can be, but it will be so hard for them to believe it when they don’t see it around them. When they don’t believe it, they will be affected by stereotype threat just as much as the older generations of women were.
In the study “Stereotype Threat and Women’s Math Performance,” done by Steve J. Spencer, Claude M. Steele, and Diane M. Quinn, different types of situations were created to see how the scores compared against both genders. “The aim of the present research has been to show that this threat can quite substantially interfere with women’s math performance, especially performance that is at the limits of their skills, and that factors that remove this threat can improve that performance.” (Spencer, Steele, & Quinn, 1999)
The study lead the experimenters to conclude when women are told prior to a test that this test was designed to have no gender differences, the women did better and the men did worse which was the opposite of what happened in the control group. That blunt reassurance that women have an equal chance to good on the test really effected their scores.
“How Stereotypes Can Drive Women Away From Science,” by Shankar Vedantam is an article about a study that was done by Toni Schmader and Matthias Mehl. They basically recorded parts of science professors days with a sound recording device. They found that women were not as engaged in a conversation with men (about work) then they were with other women (about anything). When the women would discuss things other than work and research with men they were perfectly engaged in the conversation. They only became disengaged when they were discussing work. Women became overwhelmed and actually started becoming the stereotype (in that conversation, not permanently). Being that the stereotype is women are not as competent in a math or science career, the women started sounding more incompetent than they were when conversing with their male colleagues.
All in all, women need to be depicted differently in society. Big changes are being made, but bigger changes are needed to eliminate this stereotype threat. Gender does not deem whether somebody will be sufficient in any given career. Both genders can work hard to become whatever they want in whatever field they want.
Stereotype threat will hopefully be eliminated completely in our society in the near future. Men and women will, hopefully, coexist as equals with no negative connotations to any one gender.
Spencer, S. J., Steele, C. M., & Quinn, D. M. (1999). Stereotype Threat and Women’s Math Performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 35(1), 4-28. doi:10.1006/jesp.1998.1373
Vedantam, S. (2012, July 12). How Stereotypes Can Drive Women To Quit Science. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2012/07/12/156664337/stereotype-threat-why-women-quit-science -jobs
Why Stereotype Threat Keeps Girls Out of Math and Science, and What to Do About It. (2011, June 01). Retrieved April 18, 2018, from http://theglasshammer.com/2011/06/01/why-stereotype-threat-keeps-girls-out-of-math-and-science-and-what-to-do-about-it/