Examples of Stereotype Threat

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BetterUp Studios

2 min

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Chances are you’ve heard jokes that use stereotypes to poke fun at a group of people. And you might wonder: what’s the harm?

There’s quite a lot of harm, actually, and that harm has a scientific name: stereotype threat.

According to stereotypes, women are worse at math than men. But women only score lower on math tests when they are reminded of their sex beforehand, or when taking tests in the presence of men.

Like a snake eating its tail, the stereotype negatively impacts women’s performance, which perpetuates the stereotype, which impacts the performance…and so on and so forth.

Sadly, this phenomena starts young: girls as young as five will score 15% lower on math tests when they are asked to engage in a gender-reinforcing activity first. And it extends beyond the education system. When women experience stereotyping while studying STEM subjects, they are less likely to pursue a career in that field. Clearly, the threat posed by stereotypes is substantial.

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