Ethnic Variation in Gender-STEM Stereotypes and STEM Participation An Intersectional Approach

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American Psychology Association

According to Laurie T. O’Brien, Alison Blodorn, Glenn Adams, Donna M. Garcia and Elliot Hammer’s article on ethnic variation, the term ‘culture’ is generally brought out as a set of descriptions in which a group of people identifies themselves with and meet a certain set of values, beliefs and traditions that they agree upon as a whole which later are passed down from generation to generation. Hence their actions and thinking are guided in a patterned way, while ethnicity refer to the sense of belonging to a collectively larger group based on the similarity in their way of life whereas race is built by attain specific characteristics that one identifies with. Cultural diversities and ethnic minority psychology aims at improving and bringing into light the cultural understanding specifically by researching on issues that’s are inhibited by cultural differences and ethnicity, it also helps in come up with reliable steps to dealing with cultural diversities.

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The article includes a study made by the (annual cooperative institute research program CIRP) freshman survey done in order to gather information on the students’ background in reference to characteristic, attitude, values and education goals in colleges all over the United States. The research team gathered information on the involved participants’ choice of major which lead to the research team coming up with various reliable information whereby African American women majoring in STEM fields would be relatively higher compared to European American women. Another study which was relatively used to discover the role of  women in ethnic differences and focused mainly on women generally because their gender STEM stereotype have stronger impact compared to men. Most people tend to generally classify STEM field to be masculine compared to liberal arts field. We realize that most European American women tend generalize and perceive STEM fields to be gendered at a societal level than most African American women, but still leave a possibility that both African and European American women tend to view STEM field as gendered. Relatively, European American women view the situation more at an implicit level.

 Bem, S. (1993). The Lenses of Gender: Transforming the Debate on Sexual Inequality. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Further supports that it’s essential to create a probable basis of intervention and re-educating the people on equality even in career pathways. Gender inequality is a vivid problem in the various societies across the global and there is a great need of stepping up to inequality since with time it continues to form itself to very basic of self acknowledgment. In reference, the study tends to place a direct approach on understanding ethnic variation whereby they shed light on sexual inequality that affect even decision making of a particular individual.

In reference it further presented a research done by National science foundation (NSF), that researched on factors that promotes the lack of gender diversity in STEM fields in the recent years, through their research, the article brings the realization that the first issue promoting the stereotypes is the fact that STEM fields are viewed to be masculine fields associated with men, basically due to the masculine traits such as independence and still they exist both at explicit and implicit level. These stereotypes affect even the job distribution amongst people whereby STEM fields are preferably given to the masculine gender which later contribute further to decrease in women’s performance in these fields and inflate men’s performance. Through the study we learn that this can also influence the decrease in expectations of success and performance from women associated in this STEM fields. STEM stereotype can interfere with people’s goals and interest in pursuing their favorable careers. Stereotypes take a more rooted ground in the self expression and reinforce itself by the society belief system which is portrayed evidently by choices people make. Still in reference, we get to learn that stereotypes tend to differ according to the different settings across the global community, hence the gender gap in the STEM participation and performance are not relative to each other across different countries.

The research went on to include an IAT version which was used to study the extent to which people held implicit associations in relation to masculinity. The STEM are categorized by; astronomy, biology chemistry, engineering, geology, math and physics while liberal arts (LA) categorized by; arts, English, history, humanities, music, philosophy and literature still in relation, the words for male category included; male, husband, man, uncle etc while word for female included aunt, mother, female, and wife etc.  IAT presented five blocks of trials in two conditions, one with the STEM/male combination and the other with STEM/female combination. The computed IAT scores of difference between latencies indicates that a greater implicit masculinization of STEM relative to liberal arts. Further studies to measure participants’ perceptions on the subject showed a great deal of people gave greater rating of domain masculinization. High scores indicate greater perceived masculinization of STEM relative to liberal arts.

  The article derived a study made by various groups concerning women’s under representation, in the generally viewed masculine courses (STEM), a great imbalance has been created in this field leading to unequal representation of both women and men. Studies made concerning the issues show a great number of college student even support this. It’s noted that a great deal of African women tend to likely major in the STEM fields but had weaker implicit gender STEM compared to European American women, while African American men had weaker gender STEM stereotypes than European men. Though there were no big differences between African American men and European American men therefore men were not relatively used in the study compared to women. The intersectional study based on gender-STEM stereotypes and STEM participation has led to understanding the element leading ethnic variations in gender-STEM stereotypes and brings a practical basis in which one sees the element involved. For instance women from different ethnic groups tend to hold less gender-STEM stereotypes.

In my own opinion, despite the contrast in the African American women and the European American women I realized that there was no great in difference in their perceptions. It’s more likely that ethnic variation occurs mainly due to an individual perception. Furthermore it’s very clear that the African American women do not differ from European American women, due to ethnic differences in the gendered nature of STEM but also a reflection of their different majors has some influence in it. Racial identity is a key factor on noting the background ethnicity difference amongst the participants but still it does not play a big role in choosing career.

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  1. O’Brien, L.T et al. (2015). Ethnic variation in Gender-STEM stereotypes and STEM participation: An intersectional approach. American Psychology Association, 21(2), 169-180. 
  2. Bem, S. (1993). The Lenses of Gender: Transforming the Debate on Sexual Inequality. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 
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