Exploration of the Effects of Race, Ethnicity and Socio-economic Class on Gender Stereotyping of STEM Disciplines

  • Trauth, Eileen M. (PI)
  • Joshi, Kshiti (CoPI)
  • Yarger, Lynette Marie (CoPI)
  • Mahar, Jan (CoPI)
  • Yarger, Lynette L.M. (CoPI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


Intellectual merit: Among the promising lines of investigation directed at understanding the factors that account for the under representation of females in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education is the congruence between gender roles and gender stereotyping of STEM disciplines. To the extent that influential institutional members—such as parents, educators and the media—reinforce traditional assumptions about the roles, aptitudes, and career options for men and women, subsequent behaviors in life prescribed by different roles that an individual has to perform may be experienced by that individual as incongruent or in conflict with one?s perceived gender role. Consequently, a person accepts a pattern of behaviors (or roles) by resolving or reducing the emotional and cognitive dissonance caused by role conflict. The under representation of women in the IT field is frequently explained using group level analysis suggesting that the gender role expectations account for this under representation. However, a problem with this explanation is that it assumes that all females receive similar messages regarding gender role expectations, interpret role senders' messages in the same manner, and adopt similar patterns of behavior. However, while women can be seen to be a group with respect to their collective subjugation in power relations that structure society, within group variation needs to be considered with respect to how individual women respond to gender role expectations. This study investigates the effect of intersecting group membership—including race, ethnicity and social class—on the types of societal messages about gender role received as well as the perception of and response to these societal messages. By investigating the intersectionality of gender, race and social class a more nuanced explanation of the underrepresentation of women in IT may be uncovered. The research examines the patterns of behavioral differences and the process of conflict resolutions through the lens of Eileen Trauth?s Individual Differences Theory of Gender and IT that was developed in prior research (NSF 0204246). This theoretical approach provides explanatory factors that help predict why some women's interest and persistence in the IT field are discouraged while others are not, even though these women may experience similar gender role expectations. This project involves three phases. In Phase I the instrument is developed and administered to a cohort of both male and female university undergraduates. In Phase II the data are analyzed and preliminary results produced. In Phase III the preliminary results are taken back to the populations being studied and focus groups conducted in order to refine the interpretation of the results. Broader impact: The results of this research will add to our understanding of the factors influencing IT career choice among women, thereby informing societal interventions to increase participation of females and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields. Undergraduate students at participating institutions will attend focus groups in which the preliminary results will be presented. This will serve to increase student consciousness about challenges they encounter and strategies for overcoming them. The investigators bring their own identities and experiences of diversity to this research. All are women yet their different ethnicities (Euro-American, Indian-American, and African-American) have resulted in their own, different experiences of gender role stereotyping.

Effective start/end date9/1/078/31/13


  • National Science Foundation: $486,851.00


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