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Stereotypes affect maths performance of women

” This study has major implications for women in technology and business environments, where women’s abilities are regularly impugned by negative stereotypes, assistant professor Mary Murphy, who oversaw the study, pointed out.”
New York, March 27(IANS):  Gender stereotypes about women’s ability in mathematics negatively impact their performance, says a new study from Indiana University (IU) in the US.

The findings, published online in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, showed that both men and women wrongly believe that those gender stereotypes would not undermine women’s math performance.

This study’s implications go beyond the classroom into the many other social environments where negative stereotypes about women play a role, said lead researcher Kathryn Boucher, a post-doctoral research associate at IU.

In the study, over 150 participants, split almost evenly between men and women, were given 10 minutes to solve seven difficult maths problems on a computer with no scrap paper.

Before completing the test, a negative stereotype about women was introduced by telling participants that the researchers were trying to find out why women are generally worse at maths than men.

Half the participants were then told they would be asked to solve math problems and they responded to a survey about their expected performance; the other half were told they would simply be asked to predict how they thought women might feel in this test-taking situation and how they would perform in the test.

Study participants reported they thought the negative stereotypes would function as a motivating challenge, even though women who actually performed the maths problems did not report this level of motivation when asked about their performance.

The consequences of these misperceptions are significant, Boucher said.

This study has major implications for women in technology and business environments, where women’s abilities are regularly impugned by negative stereotypes, assistant professor Mary Murphy, who oversaw the study, pointed out.

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 is a serious problem. It is one of the ways women end up under-represented in science, technology, engineering and math, Murphy added.

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