Gender Bias Produces Gender Gaps in STEM Engagement
We explored whether the existence of gender bias causes gender gaps in STEM engagement. In Experiment 1 (n = 322), U.S. women projected less sense of belonging, positivity toward, and aspirations to participate in STEM than did men when exposed to the reality of STEM gender bias. These gender differences disappeared when participants were told that STEM exhibits gender equality, suggesting that gender bias produces STEM gender gaps. Experiment 2 (n = 429) explored whether results generalized to a specific STEM department, and whether organizational efforts to mitigate gender bias might shrink gender gaps. U.S. women exposed to a biased chemistry department anticipated more discrimination and projected less sense of belonging, positive attitudes and trust and comfort than did men. These gender differences vanished when participants read about an unbiased department, again suggesting that gender bias promotes STEM gender gaps. Further, moderated mediation analyses suggested that in the presence of gender bias (but not gender equality), women projected less positive attitudes and trust and comfort than did men because they experienced less sense of belonging and anticipated more discrimination. Results were largely unaffected by whether departments completed a diversity training, suggesting that knowledge of diversity initiatives alone cannot close STEM gender gaps.
KeywordsGender bias STEM Gender gap Sexism Diversity training
The authors thank Dr. Evava Pietri for statistical consultation. This research was funded in part by a research grant from the Smithsonian Institute and a faculty development grant from Skidmore College, both to the first author.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
All data were collected in accordance with the highest established (APA) ethical standards (including obtaining informed consent from human participants). This work is not currently under review elsewhere, nor has it been previously published in whole or in part. This research was funded in part by a research grant from the Smithsonian Institute and a faculty development grant from Skidmore College, both to the first author.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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