The Effects of an Academic Environment Intervention on Stereotype Threat and Implicit Science Identification among Women in STEM
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.