Stereotypes Negatively Affect Women's Academic Performance
June 15, 2007 -- A recent study shows that women exposed to academic stereotyping demonstrate poorer scholastic performance than women who are not exposed to such stereotypes. This exposure to stereotypes belittling women's academic skills caused female students who participated in the study to become distracted and worried, which interfered with their ability to use problem solving skills most effectively.
The study, a collaboration by researchers at the University of Chicago, University of Miami, and University of California, involved 200 women with strong math skills. The women were separated into two groups; one group was simply told that they were part of a study on math performance, while the second group was told they were part of a study to find out why men outperform women in math.
While the first group did well, even displaying an improvement in their math performance, the second group's performance went from 90 percent to 80 percent. This group also went on to perform poorly on an unrelated memory examination following the math test.
A report from the National Academies, Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering, concludes that women are underrepresented at higher levels of science and engineering academics because of the influence of gender bias and the disadvantages that such bias generates. Both women's and men’s perceptions and evaluations of competence and performance are affected by these biases. They cause women to be consistently underrated and men to be consistently overrated.
Another report, To Recruit and Advance: Women Students and Faculty in Science and Engineering, reveals that female high school students are less likely to take higher levels of math and science, such as calculus, computer science, or physics. The report also says that signaling the importance of women within math and science fields, as well as enhancing science, engineering, and math studies throughout the K-12 levels, can facilitate recruitment, retention, and the advancement of women along the education-to-career pathwayin such areas.