Even when women choose to go into science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM) fields and are successful, they are more likely than men to quit. Toni Schmader, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia, and Matthias Mehl, a psychologist at the at the University of Arizona, came up with an innovative strategy to address this issue. They used an Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR), an audio recorder that can be attached to volunteers, which was programmed to record for 30 seconds every 12 minutes. By "sampling" people's daily lives, Mehl said, the recorders often pick up on things that people don't notice. Male and female scientists wore the audio recorders and went about their work. The study findings suggest that stereotype threat played a role in the reported gender differences. Stereotype threat is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when people, worried about a stereotype, act in ways that make the stereotype self-fulfilling.
To learn more about the impact of stereotype threat on women in the STEM disciplines see the following informational links:
- Full text of referenced research study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science Journal
- Academic information page for Matthias Mehl - Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Arizona
- Information page for Toni Schmader - Associate Professor of Psychology, University of British Columbia/Co-Author of study
- Information page for Shirley Malcom - Head, Education and Human Resources American Association for the Advancement of Science
- Read National Public Radio's (NPR) transcript of the 7/12/12 story airing or Listen to the NPR broadcast (9 minutes)
(Thumbnail picture used courtesy of Ayodhya Ouditt/NPR)