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How Unstable Identity Compatibility Undermines the Success of Women in STEM Fields. Sheana Ahlqvist Bonita London and Lisa Rosenthal. Women in STEM. STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Underrepresentation of women (NSF, 2008)

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how unstable identity compatibility undermines the success of women in stem fields

How Unstable Identity Compatibility Undermines the Success of Women in STEM Fields

Sheana Ahlqvist

Bonita London and Lisa Rosenthal

Ahlqvist, London, & Rosenthal, in press at Psychological Science

women in stem
Women in STEM
  • STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math
  • Underrepresentation of women (NSF, 2008)
    • In 2006: women earned 27% of B.A.’s in Math and Computer science and 19.5% of engineering.
    • Disparity widens at higher levels of career advancement, i.e, the leaky pipeline(Madden, 2008).
    • Twice as likely as men to leave jobs in STEM (Ceci et al., 2009).
women in stem1
Women in STEM
  • Negative stereotypes about women’s STEM abilities may contribute to this gender gap (e.g., Ceci et al., 2009; Blickenstaff, 2005)
  • STEM Environment (e.g., Ferreira, 2003; NSF, 2009; Valian, 2005)
    • Female students report receiving less encouragement than male students
    • Women report greater perceptions of an unwelcoming environment than men
identity compatibility
Identity Compatibility
  • We all hold multiple social identities
  • These identities may exist in conflict

Male Nanny

Ahlqvist et al., in press (Psych Science)

identity conflict vs compatibility
Identity Conflict vs. Compatibility

Stereotypes about women and scientists may be incompatible (Eagly & Steffen, 1984)

  • Benefits of perceiving STEM as compatible with female gender identity (i.e., identity compatibility)
    • Interest in pursuing STEM (Diekman et al., 2010; Cheryan et al, 2010)
    • Among STEM women:
      • Improved sense of belonging, motivation, and security in STEM (London, et al., 2011)
      • Incompatibility: poorer self-esteem and performance as a scientist (Settles, 2004)
  • Logical, Nonsocial
  • Emotional, Affiliative

Ahlqvist et al., in press (Psych Science)

slide6

Importance of identity compatibility (e.g., Cheryan et al, 2010; Diekman et al, 2010; London et al, 2010; Rosenthal et al, 2011; Settles, 2004)

    • Unclear how women come to see their gender and STEM identities as compatible or incompatible
  • We propose that identity compatibility may be damaged by threatening cues in the environment

Ahlqvist et al., in press (Psych Science)

the negative effects of stigma
The Negative Effects of Stigma
  • Stereotype and social identity threats (e.g., Ferreira, 2003; NSF, 2009)
    • Students are exposed to fewer
      • Female peers
      • Female exemplars of STEM success
  • Threatening cues in the environment mayimpair compatibility (e.g., Ceci et al., 2009; Blickenstaff, 2005)

Ahlqvist et al., in press (Psych Science)

subtle cues of threat
Subtle Cues of Threat
  • May be subtle or ambiguous (Dovidio et al., 2004)
  • Individuals vary in whether they detect subtle forms of threat (e.g., London et al, 2012; Mendoza-Denton et al., 2008)
  • Gender-based Rejection Sensitivity model (Gender RS) identifies those most attuned to threat (London et al., 2012)

Ahlqvist et al., in press (Psych Science)

gender rs
Gender RS
  • Gender RS:
    • Social-Cognitive individual difference measure
  • Predicts increased perceptions of threat and negative responses to threat (London et al., 2012).
  • Because threat may harm identity compatibility those adept at detecting cues of threat  unstable identity compatibility

Ahlqvist et al., in press (Psych Science)

fluctuations in identity compatibility
Fluctuations in Identity Compatibility
  • African-Americans who are more attuned to threat have unstable academic self-efficacy (Aronson & Inzlicht, 2004)
    • Theorized that instability would be damaging
    • Do perceptions of threat  unstable Identity compatibility?

Ahlqvist et al., in press (Psych Science)

slide11

Longitudinal study of Female STEM majors (n = 153)

Spring Weekly Surveys

Fall Follow-up

More Threat

Perceived

Background

Less Threat

Perceived

Ahlqvist et al., in press (Psych Science)

gender rs1
Gender RS
  • Gender RS Questionnaire: Identifies who is more likely to perceive gender-based threat (London et al., 2012)
  • Read 6 scenarios in which bias is possible (e.g., initial meeting with male advisor)
    • Likelihood of bias
    • Anxiety

Ahlqvist et al., in press (Psych Science)

slide13

Longitudinal study of Female STEM majors (n = 153)

Spring Weekly Surveys

Fall Follow-up

More Threat

Perceived

Background

Less Threat

Perceived

Ahlqvist et al., in press (Psych Science)

gender stem identity compatibility
Gender/STEM Identity Compatibility
  • Modified Version of the Inclusion of Other in Self measure (Aron et al., 1992; London et al., 2012; Tropp & Wright, 2001)

Ahlqvist et al., in press (Psych Science)

fluctuations in identity compatibility1
Fluctuations in Identity Compatibility
  • Administered weekly for 14 weeks (M= 12.52 weeks)
    • During Spring Semester of Freshman year
  • Instability: Within-person SD across time (e.g., Aronson & Inzlicht, 2004)
    • Higher numbers indicate less stability

Ahlqvist et al., in press (Psych Science)

slide16

Longitudinal study of Female STEM majors (n = 153)

Spring Weekly Surveys

Fall Follow-up

More Threat

Perceived

Background

Less Threat

Perceived

Ahlqvist et al., in press (Psych Science)

outcomes at fall follow up
Outcomes at Fall Follow-up
  • Subjective Belonging
    • Sense of Belonging in STEM
    • Evaluative Threat
    • Gender/STEM Identity Compatibility
  • Objective Performance
    • Official Academic Transcripts (n=105) for Fall Semester (2nd year)
    • STEM GPA
    • Non-STEM GPA

Ahlqvist et al., in press (Psych Science)

model
Model

More Threat

Perceived

Less Threat

Perceived

results
Results

Ahlqvist et al., in press (Psych Science)

gender rs fluctuations in identity compatibility
Gender RS  fluctuations in Identity Compatibility?
  • Gender RS (at background) predicted greater fluctuations in Identity Compatibility during the freshman, Spring semester (= .32, p = < .001). (Controlling for level of Identity Compatibility, High School GPA, and Personal RS)

Ahlqvist et al., in press (Psych Science)

slide21

Fluctuations in Identity Compatibility Predicting Follow-Up Outcomes

Ahlqvist et al., in press (Psych Science)

stem vs non stem gpa by fluctuating identity compatibility
STEM vs. Non-STEM GPA by Fluctuating Identity Compatibility

Ahlqvist et al., in press (Psych Science)

why might gender rs predict unstable identity compatibility
Why might Gender RS predict unstable Identity compatibility?
  • During the 14 weeks during Spring, participants described most significant event of the last week
    • Negative/Positive
    • An academic/non-academic interaction
  • Gender RS is related to stronger reactions to threat (London et al., 2012)
  • We reasoned Identity Compatibility would decline after experiencing a negative academic experience
    • only for those high in Gender RS
  • HLM analyses found support for this prediction (Interaction: B = -.04, SE - .01, p < .01)

Ahlqvist et al., in press (Psych Science)

gender rs identity compatibility following a negative academic event during weekly surveys
Gender RS  Identity Compatibility following a negative academic event (during weekly surveys)

No Negative Social Event

Negative Social Event Reported

No Negative Academic Event

Negative Academic Event Reported

(Interaction: p< .01)

conclusions
Conclusions
  • Women higher in Gender RS show
    • Less stable Gender/STEM identity compatibility during their second semester of college
    • Declines in identity compatibility following a negative academic event
  • These fluctuations in identity compatibility predicted impaired outcomes at follow-up
      • Subjective belonging variables
      • STEM GPA

Ahlqvist et al., in press (Psych Science)

future directions
Future Directions
  • When does STEM Identity stabilize?
    • Unstable during transition points or a constant struggle?
    • Graduate Students in STEM look similar
  • Can interventions reduce instability?
    • STEM support program, role models, etc

Ahlqvist et al., in press (Psych Science)

thank you
Thank You

Funded by National Science Foundation, Award #0733918

  • Co-Authors: Drs. Bonita London & Lisa Rosenthal
  • Co-P.I.s: Drs.Sheri Levy & Marci Lobel
  • Feedback: Tricia Voda, Lindsay Juarez, John Protzko, & Allison Newell
    • Statistical Support: Dr. Niall Bolger
  • RA’s at Stony Brook University and New York University

Contact: Sheana.ahlqvist@stonybrook.edu

Ahlqvist et al., in press (Psych Science)

gender rs measure sample scenario london downey romero canyas rattan tyson 2012
Gender RS Measure (Sample Scenario)(London, Downey, Romero-Canyas, Rattan & Tyson, 2012)

Imagine that your science professor assigns you and your classmates to work on a group project. A team

leader is chosen and he begins to assign tasks to each member.

How concerned/anxious would you be that the team leader will assign you a less complicated/menial task because of your gender?

Very unconcerned Very concerned

1 2 3 4 5 6

I would not expect the team leader to assign me a menial task?

Very unlikely Very likely

1 2 3 4 5 6

Ahlqvist et al., in press (Psych Science)

stem identity compatibility
STEM Identity Compatibility

Which set of circles reflect how compatible you think your two identities are?

Ahlqvist et al., in press (Psych Science)

sense of belonging
Sense of Belonging
  • Adapted from Mendoza-Denton’s Institutional Belonging Scale (8 Items)
  • How do you feel about your
    • Major
      • Thrilled to be in my major
      • Definitely Fit in my major
      • I feel welcome
      • I feel comfortable
    • Peers and Classmates in your major
    • Professors in your major
      • I like them
      • I feel comfortable with them

Ahlqvist et al., in press (Psych Science)

evaluative threat
Evaluative Threat
  • Using the scale below, indicate how much you agree or disagree with each statement in regards to the environment in your S.T.E.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math) major.
  • I feel like other people will not respect me if I do poorly in my S.T.E.M. major
  • I feel like my peers will think less of me if I give a wrong answer in a class in my S.T.E.M. major.
  • I feel like my professors will think less of me if I give a wrong answer in a class in my S.T.E.M. major.
  • I feel like my peers will think less of me if I fail to catch on as quickly as others in my S.T.E.M. major.
  • I feel like my instructors in my S.T.E.M. major will think I am not smart if I ask for help.
  • I worry that people in my S.T.E.M. major will be judging me.
  • I worry about what other people may think of my S.T.E.M. abilities.

Ahlqvist et al., in press (Psych Science)