Study Finds Persistence of Stereotypical Negative Images of Women in Tech

A new study led by Fay Cobb Payton, a program director in the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering at the National Science Foundation, finds that women in STEM disciplines are still portrayed in stereotypical ways in popular media.

The report found that women in tech fields are “portrayed in ways that overemphasize their appearance and sexuality.” They also found that women in tech are often referred to as “exceptional” implying that a woman’s achievements are “abnormal.”

The authors conclude that “nonrealistic profiles and nonpositive images of women in the popular media continue to warrant thorough investigation and redirection. Rather than be distracted by stereotypical (negative or controversial) images, researchers and media leaders should focus on the story (re)telling process and untold narratives to capture lived experiences and establish an inclusive climate for those historically underrepresented in the field. Inclusive, realistic role images/models could help increase the number of underrepresented minorities in academia and in the tech work force while strengthening and inspiring entrepreneurial mind-sets and pathways.”

Before joining the National Science Foundation in 2018, Dr. Payton served on the faculty at North Carolina State University. She is a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology and holds a second bachelor’s degree and an MBA from Clark Atlanta University. Dr. Payton earned a Ph.D. in information and decision systems at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

The full study, “Countering the Negative Image of Women in Computing,” was published by the Association for Computing Machinery. It may be accessed here.

A video of Dr. Payton discussing the study can be viewed below.

Filed Under: Research/StudySTEM Fields


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  1. Dorothy H. Sanchez says:

    I think a lot of the problem is some people in technology have never interacted with black women. So, sometimes they may feel that they should always be aggressive toward them. The aggressiveness may not be intentional. However, I think it may be because it is what the media shows and they feel they need to have control over them. This seems to be with other women more than with men. A manager said to me once, “I am here to protect these men from you.” I really do not think she was aware of how ridiculous she sounded. Nevertheless, it revealed how she really felt about me, although she did not know anything about me. It was the fear in her that my purpose for being there was something other than being the best professional person that I could be. So, I did not take it to heart. I think I understood her more than she cared to understand me.

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