Although there has been progress over the past 30 years, women are still under-represented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. In contrast to many explanations that focus on biological or socialization factors for why women are under-represented in STEM, the concept of stereotype threat-defined broadly as a concern about confirming a negative stereotype about one's group-is an avenue for understanding how situational factors cause women both to perform below their potential on STEM tasks and to report a decreased interest in STEM. The proposed program of research uses recent advances in stereotype threat theory, including a framework of multiple, qualitatively distinct stereotype threats, to evaluate and test novel, theoretically driven stereotype threat interventions. Although empirically supported interventions such as self-affirmation and role models have been shown to reduce the negative effects of stereotype threat, this may only be true for a particular set of stereotype threats and may be ineffective or misguided when applied to other stereotype threats. The primary objective of the proposed research is to use the Multi-Threat Framework to address the gap between the applied need to implement successful interventions reducing the distinct stereotype threats experienced by women in STEM and the lack of basic scientific research examining multi-pronged interventions that undermine multiple stereotype threats. We will accomplish this objective across six studies. Five studies will experimentally test (using random assignment) the ability of theoretically driven interventions to reduce the experience of different forms of stereotype threats and as a result, promote women's interest in STEM. The sixth study will be a field study in which women and men in introductory STEM classes are randomly assigned to an intervention or control condition before they enroll for classes. The impact of the intervention on class selection, interest, participation, and performance will be assessed. Theoretically, the proposed studies will advance stereotype threat theory, in particular in terms of intervention. Pragmatically, the proposed studies will inform interventionists of the limited scope of some stereotype threat interventions. More importantly, it will demonstrate the utility of considering multiple, distinct, stereotype threats or designing, developing, and implementing multi-pronged, theoretically-driven stereotype threat-reducing interventions to support recruitment, retention, re-entry, and advancement of women in STEM.

Public Health Relevance

Stereotype threat-defined broadly as a concern about confirming a negative stereotype about one's group- identifies how situational factors (e.g., proportion of women in one's workplace) lead to under-performance and under-representation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), in addition to increasing the likelihood that women will suffer negative health consequences such as increased general anxiety, blood pressure, and feelings of dejection. The successful completion of the proposed project will provide important evidence for the development of effective intervention programs designed to eliminate sex/gender disparities;promote the careers of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fields;and increase the general health and well-being of women.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZGM1-MORE-7 (IN))
Program Officer
Sesma, Michael A
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University of California Los Angeles
Schools of Arts and Sciences
Los Angeles
United States
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Shapiro, Jenessa R; Williams, Amy M; Hambarchyan, Mariam (2013) Are all interventions created equal? A multi-threat approach to tailoring stereotype threat interventions. J Pers Soc Psychol 104:277-88