Academic environments can feel unwelcoming for women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Two studies examined academic environments of female undergraduates majoring in STEM fields at a university in the United States. In Study 1, we compared women in STEM who are in a welcoming environment to those in a traditional STEM environment in order to identify factors that may make environments seem welcoming to women. Women in the welcoming environment received more messages about women in STEM, were more likely to wear or carry markers of their major, and had more peer role models in STEM. In Study 2, we developed an intervention based on these factors to improve women’s implicit beliefs about their participation in STEM. In a sample of women in traditional STEM environments, we manipulated exposure to the intervention and the self-relevance of the intervention. The intervention decreased stereotyping concerns and indirect STEM stereotyping, and it increased implicit STEM identification when the intervention was made self-relevant. This research demonstrates the importance of a welcoming academic environment for women in STEM, and it also provides a model for how key elements of intensive university programs targeting women can be translated into a more general approach that reaches a wider audience.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Although our \(-\)3 to +3 scale is not strictly interval, recoding the answer options into a 1 to 6 scale does not change the significance or direction of any outcomes regarding expectations for female representation in STEM.
IATs used these words: sciences (astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, geology, math, physics), humanities (arts, English, history, humanities, literature, music, philosophy), self (I, me, myself, participant’s name, participant’s hometown), others (others, their, theirs, them, they), female (aunt, daughter, female, girl, grandma, mother, wife, woman), and male (boy, father, grandpa, husband, male, man, son, uncle).
Pattern of results and statistical significance are unchanged when participants who failed to notice the manipulation are retained.
Ambady, N., Paik, S. K., Steele, J., Owen-Smith, A., & Mitchell, J. P. (2004). Deflecting negative self-relevant stereotype activation: The effects of individuation. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40, 401–408.
Asgari, S., Dasgupta, N., & Stout, J. G. (2012). When do counterstereotypic ingroup members inspire vs. deflate? The effect of successful professional women on young women’s leadership self-concept. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38, 370–383.
Beaman, R., Wheldall, K., & Kemp, C. (2006). Differential teacher attention to boys and girls in the classroom. Educational Review, 58, 339–366.
Becker, J. R. (1981). Differential treatment of females and males in mathematics classes. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 12, 40–53.
Briñol, P., Petty, R. E., & McCaslin, M. J. (2008). Changing attitudes on implicit versus explicit measures: What is the difference? In R. E. Petty, R. H. Fazio, & P. Briñol (Eds.), Attitudes: Insights from the new implicit measures (pp. 285–326). New York: Psychology Press.
Cheryan, S., Plaut, V. C., Davies, P. G., & Steele, C. M. (2009). Ambient belonging: How stereotypical cues impact gender participation in computer science. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97, 1045–1060.
Cheryan, S., & Plaut, V. (2010). Explaning underrepresentation: A theory of precluded interest. Sex Roles, 63, 475–488.
Cheryan, S., Meltzoff, A. N., & Kim, S. (2011). Classrooms matter: The design of virtual classrooms influences gender disparities in computer science classes. Computers & Education, 57, 1825–1835.
Cheryan, S., Siy, J. O., Vichayapai, M., Drury, B. J., & Kim, S. (2011). Do female and male role models who embody STEM stereotypes hinder women’s anticipated success in STEM? Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2, 656–664.
Cohen, G. L., Garcia, J., Apfel, N., & Master, A. (2006). Reducing the racial achievement gap: A social-psychological intervention. Science, 313, 1307–1310.
Cohn, S. (2000). Race and gender discrimination at work. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Crocker, J., & Major, B. M. (1989). Social stigma and self-esteem: The self-protective properties of stigma. Psychological Review, 96, 608–630.
Dasgupta, N., & Greenwald, A. G. (2001). On the malleability of automatic attitudes: Combating automatic prejudice with images of admired and disliked individuals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 800–814.
Dasgupta, N., & Asgari, S. (2004). Seeing is believing: Exposure to counterstereotypic women leaders and its effect on automatic gender stereotyping. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40, 642–658.
Dasgupta, N. (2011). Ingroup experts and peers as social vaccines who inoculate the self-concept: The stereotype inoculation model. Psychological Inquiry, 22, 231–246.
Edman, J. L., & Brazil, B. (2007). Perceptions of campus climate, academic efficacy, and academic success among community college students: An ethnic comparison. Social Psychology of Education, 12, 371–383.
Edwards, K. E., & McKelfresh, D. A. (2002). The impact of a living learning center on students’ academic success and persistence. Journal of College Student Development, 43, 395–402.
Eichstaedt, J., & Silvia, P. J. (2003). Noticing the self: Implicit assessment of self-focused attention using word recognition latencies. Social Cognition, 21, 349–361.
Farley, J. E. (2002). Contesting our everyday work lives: The retention of minority and working class sociology undergraduates. The Sociological Quarterly, 43, 1–25.
Gloria, A. M., & Ho, T. A. (2003). Environmental, social, and psychological experiences of Asian American undergraduates: Examining issues of academic persistence. Journal of Counseling and Development, 81, 93–105.
Good, C., Aronson, J., & Inzlicht, M. (2003). Improving adolescents’ standardized test performance: An intervention to reduce the effects of stereotype threat. Applied Developmental Psychology, 24, 645–662.
Gottfried, A. E., Marcoulides, G. A., Gottfried, A. W., Oliver, P., & Guerin, D. (2007). Multivariate latent change modeling of developmental decline in academic intrinsic math motivation and achievement: Childhood through adolescence. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 31, 317–327.
Greenwald, A. G., McGhee, D. E., & Schwartz, J. L. K. (1998). Measuring individual differences in implicit cognition: The implicit association test. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 1022–1038.
Greenwald, A. G., Banaji, M. R., Rudman, L. A., Farnham, S. D., Nosek, B. A., & Mellott, D. S. (2002). A unified theory of implicit attitudes, stereotypes, self-esteem, and self-concept. Psychological Review, 109, 3–25.
Greenwald, A. G., Nosek, B. A., & Banaji, M. R. (2003). Understanding and using the implicit association test: I. An improved scoring algorithm. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 197–216.
Greenwald, A. G., Poehlman, T. A., Uhlmann, E. L., & Banaji, M. R. (2009). Understanding and using the implicit association test: III. Meta-analysis of predictive validity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97, 17–41.
Hammond, K. R. (1948). Measuring attitudes by error choice: An indirect method. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 43, 38–48.
Han, A. H., Olson, M. A., & Fazio, R. H. (2006). The influence of experimentally created extrapersonal associations on the implicit association test. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 42, 259–272.
Hathaway, R. S., Sharp, S., & Davis, C.-S. (2001). Programmatic efforts affect retention of women in science and engineering. Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, 7, 107–124.
Huguet, P., & Régner, I. (2009). Counter-stereotypic beliefs in math do not protect school girls from stereotype threat. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 1024–1027.
Inzlicht, M., & Ben-Zeev, T. (2000). A threatening intellectual environment: Why females are susceptible to experiencing problem-solving deficits in the presence of males. Psychological Science, 11, 365–371.
Jacobs, J. E., Lanza, S., Osgood, D. W., Eccles, J. S., & Wigfield, A. (2002). Changes in children’s self-competence and values: Gender and domain differences across grades one through twelve. Child Development, 73, 509–527.
Karpinski, A., & Hilton, J. L. (2001). Attitudes and the implicit association test. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 774–788.
Kelly, A. (1988). Gender differences in pupil-teacher interactions: A meta-analytic review. Research in Education, 39, 1–24.
Kuçera, H., & Francis, W. N. (1967). Computational analysis of present-day American english. Providence, RI: Brown University Press.
Luhtanen, R., & Crocker, J. (1992). A collective self-esteem scale: Self-evaluation of one’s social identity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 18, 302–318.
Lyness, K. S., & Heilman, M. E. (2006). When fit is fundamental: Performance evaluations and promotions of upper-level female and male managers. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91, 777–785.
McKinney, J. P., McKinney, K. G., Franiuk, R., & Schweiter, J. (2006). The college classroom as a community: Impact on student learning. College Teaching, 54, 281–284.
Merrett, F., & Wheldall, K. (1992). Teachers’ use of praise and reprimands to boys and girls. Educational Review, 44, 73–79.
Miyake, A., Kost-Smith, L. E., Finkelstein, N. D., Pollock, S. J., Cohen, G. L., & Ito, T. A. (2010). Reducing the gender achievement gap in college science: A classroom study of values affirmation. Science, 330, 1234–1237.
Murphy, M. C., Steele, C. M., & Gross, J. J. (2007). Signaling threat: How situational cues affect women in math, science, and engineering settings. Psychological Science, 18, 879–885.
Nosek, B. A., Banaji, M. R., & Greenwald, A. G. (2002). Math = male, me = female, therefore math \(\ne \) me. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 44–59.
Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1984). The effects of involvement on responses to argument quantity and quality: Central and peripheral routes to persuasion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46, 69–81.
Quinn, D. M., & Spencer, S. J. (2001). The interference of stereotype threat with women’s generation of mathematical problem-solving strategies. Journal of Social Issues, 57, 55–71.
Rios, D., Stewart, A. J., & Winter, D. G. (2010). “Thinking she could be the next president”: Why identifying with the curriculum matters. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 34, 328–338.
Rosenthal, L., London, B., Levy, S., & Lobel, M. (2011). The roles of perceived identity compatibility and social support for women in a single-sex STEM program at a co-educational university. Sex Roles, 65, 725–736.
Ryan, R. M. (1982). Control and information in the intrapersonal sphere: An extension of cognitive evaluation theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43, 450–461.
Sadker, D., Sadker, M., & Zittleman, K. R. (2009). Still failing at fairness: How gender bias cheats girls and boys and what we can do about it. ( Revised edition). New York: Charles Scribner.
Schmader, T. (2002). Gender identification moderates stereotype threat effects on women’s math performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 38(2), 194–201.
Schmader, T., Johns, M., & Barquissau, M. (2004). The costs of accepting gender differences: The role of stereotype endorsement in women’s experience in the math domain. Sex Roles, 50(11), 835–850.
Sekaquaptewa, D., & Thompson, M. (2003). Solo status, stereotype threat, and performance expectancies: Their effects on women’s performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 39, 68–74.
Settles, I. H. (2004). When multiple identities interfere: The role of identity centrality. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 487–500.
Settles, I. H., Jellison, W. A., & Pratt-Hyatt, J. S. (2009). Identification with multiple social groups: The moderating role of identity change over time among women-scientists. Journal of Research in Personality, 43, 856–867.
Shapiro, J. R. (2011). Different groups, different threats: A multi-threat approach to the experience of stereotype threats. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37, 464–480.
Simpkins, S. D., Davis-Kean, P. E., & Eccles, J. S. (2006). Math and science motivation: A longitudinal examination of the links between choices and beliefs. Developmental Psychology, 42, 70–83.
Smith, C. T., De Houwer, J., & Nosek, B. A. (2012). Consider the source: Persuasion of implicit evaluations is moderated by source credibility. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Retrieved from http://ssrn.com/abstract=2084274
Soldner, M., Rowan-Kenyon, H., Inkelas, K. K., Garvey, J., & Robbins, C. (2012). Supporting students’ intentions to persist in STEM disciplines: The role of living-learning programs among other social-cognitive factors. Journal of Higher Education, 83, 311–336.
Spencer, S. J., Steele, C. M., & Quinn, D. M. (1999). Stereotype threat and women’s math performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 35, 4–28.
Steele, C. M., Spencer, S. J., & Aronson, J. (2002). Contending with group image: The psychology of stereotype and social identity threat. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (pp. 379–440). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Stout, J. G., Dasgupta, N., Hunsinger, M., & McManus, M. (2011). STEMing the tide: Using ingroup experts to inoculate women’s self-concept and professional goals in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100, 255–270.
Szelenyi, K., & Inkelas, K. K. (2011). The role of living-learning programs in women’s plans to attend graduate school in STEM fields. Research in Higher Education, 52, 349–369.
Thompson, D. E., Orr, B., Thompson, C., & Grover, K. (2007). Examining students’ perceptions of their first-semester experience at a major land-grant institution. College Student Journal, 41, 640–648.
This research was supported in part by a grant from the National Center for Institutional Diversity at the University of Michigan. The authors wish to thank Kathy Totz for her assistance in collecting data used in this research, as well as the members and administrators of the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program at the University of Michigan.
STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.
About this article
Cite this article
Ramsey, L.R., Betz, D.E. & Sekaquaptewa, D. The effects of an academic environment intervention on science identification among women in STEM. Soc Psychol Educ 16, 377–397 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11218-013-9218-6
- Implicit attitudes