Gender Stereotype Threat Among Women and Girls

Publication Date


Document Type

Book Chapter


Stereotype threat occurs when a situation raises concern that one will be judged in terms of group stereotypes (Steele, 2010). This can affect all kinds of people in many situations, but its impact women’s under-representation in mathematics and science fields is of particular importance. Stereotype threat research makes us rethink the way we frame gender gaps in these fields. Rather than blaming women’s personal preferences, whether socialized of ‘hard-wired,’ threat suggests that responsibility may lie with environmental influences. It demonstrates how the most unsuspecting situations can impact women and girls’ performance, interests, and self-views. This focus on external rather than internal influences also paves the way for solutions, ways that we can shape environments to foster women’s and girls’ interests and talents. This chapter will benefit anyone who wonders why there are more men than women in science and engineering programs, anyone who wants to see more female students pursue non-traditional passions for math, computer science, military, or law enforcement careers, and anyone who questions whether existing gender divides really reflect some inevitable natural order.

Recognizing the relevance of stereotype threat to the lives of women and girls, this chapter aims to connect theory and laboratory experiments with real-world consequences. We first outline the theory, including its necessary and sufficient conditions. We then catalogue threat effects observed in women of different ages, considering how girls’ social-cognitive development maps onto the development of stereotype threat. We review evidence for threat’s presence in real evaluative situations and detail interventions that can reduce it. Finally, we discuss how stereotype threat research is currently being shared and applied in educational settings.

Original Citation

Betz, D., Ramsey, L. R., & Sekaquaptewa, D. (2013). Gender Stereotype Threat Among Women and Girls. In M. K. Ryan & N. R. Branscombe (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Gender and Psychology, (pp. 428-449). Los Angeles: Sage. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781446269930.n26