Do STEM Diversity Efforts Actually Help Women or Does Increased “Stereotype Threat” Lead to Failure?

A new study has found that efforts to increase diversity in STEM may actually make women feel less included. Evava Pietri, an assistant professor of psychology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, was the lead researcher of this project.

The study involved 585 participants, both men and women, who watched videos on the STEM gender gap. Half of the participants watched videos of professors and students discussing research articles about the issue, and the other group watched videos of male psychology professors explaining various research on the subject. After viewing the videos, both men and women reported an increase in understanding the gender bias problem. However, women also reported “decreased anticipated belonging and trust and increased negative affect and stereotype threat concerns about the STEM organization.”

The researchers conclude that advocates for women in STEM need to be more diligent in their diversity efforts moving forward. They also question whether or not these programs should be used at all. “Perhaps the risks associated with social identity threat are not worth the benefits of increased bias literacy and reduced gender bias,” according to the authors.

Dr. Pietri is a graduate of Amherst College in Massachusetts. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in social psychology from Ohio State University.

The full study, entitled “Addressing Unintended Consequences of Gender Diversity Inventions on Women’s Sense of Belonging in STEM,” was published on the website of the journal Sex Roles. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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