Bridging the gender gap by investigating and counteracting the influence of gender brilliance stereotypes on girls' STEM participation
Effective Years: 2022-2027
The increased demand for intellectual talent has highlighted the need for more female scientists, yet women are consistently underrepresented in the STEM domain. A pervading stereotype associating intellectual talent with men rather than women is a powerful cultural message that is in part responsible for this gender gap, termed the gender brilliance stereotype. This pernicious stereotype emerges early and immediately shapes children’s interests. To tackle this gender disparity from its developmental roots, this project will address three interrelated questions: (1) How do children internalize the gender brilliance stereotype? (2) How does the gender brilliance stereotype influence children’s, especially girls’, motivation? (3) What strategies can be developed to promote girls’ involvement in STEM? Findings from this research will transform understanding of the barriers posed on girls and lay a solid foundation for devising interventions to engage them in STEM. The project will also support graduate and undergraduate students in STEM education research and a course related to this research will be developed as part of the educational integration plan. Ultimately, this work will contribute to reducing gender inequalities. This research project is supported by the EHR Core Research (ECR) program, which supports work that advances fundamental research on STEM learning and learning environments, broadening participation in STEM, and STEM workforce development.
Integrating experimental and longitudinal approaches, the project will focus on 5- to 7-year-old children and provide a comprehensive investigation of the gender brilliance stereotype. Specifically, this research will investigate the contextual factors contributing to children’s endorsement of the stereotype, with a focus on parenting practices and will explore three psychological mechanisms through which the stereotype shapes girls’ motivation. The research design includes a series of experiments, and analyses include correlational approaches and identifying causal links between environmental sources and gender stereotypes. Young students and their parents will engage in brief tasks and respond to questionnaires that probe their underlying assumptions about the role of gender in STEM. In addition, the researcher will develop a role-model intervention to alleviate the negative consequences of the stereotype, namely, the early gender imbalance in participation in STEM activities. This project will advance the state of knowledge about the early-emerging psychological processes that underpin women’s underrepresentation in STEM and beyond. It will also bridge research and education by yielding information for parents, teachers, and museum educators on how to reduce the gender brilliance stereotype and its negative impacts.
This award is funded in whole or in part under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (Public Law 117-2).
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.