Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Psychology and Behavioral Sciences
Historically, there has been a significant gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers (Beede et al., 2011; National Science Foundation, 2009), which has been attributed to females' lack of interest and pursuit of careers in these fields (Singletary et al., 2009). In the past, the lack of female participation in these careers was explained by a difference in natural abilities in these areas, especially in mathematics (Benbow & Stanley, 1983); however, research has shown that females are capable of performing just as well as males in the same age group in math (Smith & White, 2002; Spencer et al., 1999). In recent decades another explanation for this gender gap has arisen, stereotype threat (Steele & Aronson, 1995).
Stereotype threat occurs when an individual is placed in a situation in which he or she is at risk for confirming a negative stereotype about his or her group (Steele & Aronson, 1995). It has been proposed that females experience stereotype threat when taking a math test due to the concern of confirming the negative stereotype that females are not as capable as males in math, which hinders their performance due to increased anxiety and self-evaluation (Spencer et al., 1999; Steele & Aronson, 1995).
This study sought to extend the research in the area of stereotype-threat effects on females' math performance by examining the effects of proposed moderators (i.e., domain identification, gender identification, and stigma consciousness), a proposed protective factor (i.e., math self-efficacy), and an intervention to reduce threat with a high school student sample of 100 participants. The results of the present study replicated the findings previously produced in studies with college student samples, specifically that females perform lower than males in a stereotype-threat condition and that they perform comparable to males when an intervention of reframing the math test as gender fair is employed (Quinn & Spencer, 2001; Smith & White, 2002; Spencer et al., 1999). There was no significant moderation found in the present study; however, math identification and math self-efficacy were indicated to be positively correlated to math performance. This finding can have great implications in the classroom setting and in increasing females' interest and pursuit of math and other STEM careers. Future research should continue to examine the potential benefits of employing a reframing the task as gender fair intervention, specifically examining its long-term effectiveness. Additionally, future studies could examine ways to develop and increase females' math self-efficacy and math identification.
Ball, Jacqueline Hebert, "" (2014). Dissertation. 212.