Box It Up

I really had to think for a long time about how stereotypical threat has impacted my life, and I realize as a white man this type of threat is either so small I don’t notice it or I really don’t find it offensive. That being said white men are probably more screwed up than everyone else, but I really had to rack my brain for a time where a stereotype was applied to me. So the story I am about to tell is a real first world, white, male privilege story, and writing/thinking about this made me realize how lucky I am. I could think of two times where stereotypes really had an effect on my life. The first was being directly related to me and in the second case someone was assuming that I held the same (racist) stereotypical beliefs as they did.

To give some context to this first story, from when I was born to my freshman year of high school I grew up on the east coast. Then for high school and college, I lived in Texas and Oklahoma. I had a really big friend base back east and for the most part identified as an east coaster. I never really cared much for southern culture, and I will admit that I generally associate people from the south as being backward thinking and most likely somewhere on the racism spectrum (the irony is coming). On a few occasions in the south I was called a “Yankee” or some other names along those lines but I felt that was more like a badge of honor. It didn’t bother me in the slightest, however when the roles are reversed that’s a different story.  All that being said I would occasionally take a vacation back east to see my friends and hang out with my family. I was out one-night getting drinks with friends and friends of friends when I started talking with this girl. We were just making casual conversation about what we did, etc.  As soon as I told her I was doing a Masters in Oklahoma here entire attitude change.  It was apparent this Ivy-educated New Yorker had just put me into the box of less intelligent/racist or some combination of this.  She asked me “how could you live in a place like that”.  I just responded that it was a financial decision and that It was a great school. Shortly after our conversation ended.  All that being said I don’t think anything but an ivy league education and a wealthy family would have appeased this girl. It’s funny, I know many people from a similar background and are friends with them.  Just this interaction really made me realize that our preconceived notions about where people are from can be so far from the truth.  It’s a wild idea that depending on if you are born above or below the Mason-Dixon line people are going to assume you are a racist or not.  This whole interaction made me realize how contrasting our country is even after 150 years after slavery was abolished.  It also made me rethink the stereotype I held as partly true.  I think the funny thing about the whole ordeal and this is true of every type of stereotype/ racism is generally the people we have biases about are people we have never met or had any interaction with.

All that being said everyone makes an initial judgment based on people’s appearance, however, next time don’t try to put someone in a box so quickly.  Listen to what they have to say and how they act before you make a judgment about them.

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Stereotype Threat

 

Introduction

Stereotypes can significantly impact the way we live and engage with other social beings. It is important to understand what information stereotypes communicate to us and how this information impact our communication and interaction with each other.

A stereotype is referred to as “a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment. [1]” It is usually considered as an overgeneralization about a particular group of people based on their personality traits, inherent abilities and other common preferences.

Furthermore, Stereotype Threat refers to being at risk of confirming, as a self-characteristic, a negative stereotype about one’s social group (Steele & Aronson, 1995) [2]. It is believed that certain characteristics become formative self-fulfilling prophecies for those defined as having them [3]. It is important to know that no one is exempt from stereotype threat and because everyone is vulnerable, we all need to be proactive in displacing stereotypes and stereotype threats.

Consider watching this interesting social experiment video, Threat of Stereotypes, on stereotype threats (ST) that demonstrates the impact of ST on our behavior, performance and situational outlook.

Personal Impact

I have always felt uneasy about having conversations around stereotypes. But, I do think it is important to share your experiences to bring awareness and hopefully dismantle practices and behaviors that are seemingly spineless. Stereotypes in my opinion are hollow projections on different groups based on irrational judgments.

Migrating to the U.S and in pursuit of a higher education degree within the STEM field, I was very excited to matriculate into college and into an engineering program. I followed the necessary testing protocol for the placement tests and I successfully made the score requirements. However, because of my high school status, being foreign, I was prevented from enrolling into the college level math calculus series and required to retake the pre-requisite math classes prior to enrollment. The principal stereotype threat here was education obtained outside of the U.S. is perceived as lacking in quality, completeness and rigor. Due to this skewed perception, retaking the pre-requisite classes set me back a good year and also caused me to have doubts in my abilities to succeed in my math coursework and in attaining an engineering degree. Although, I made the mark of acceptance according to the college’s standards, I was disadvantaged because of my academic history.

Another dominant stereotype threat that I have frequently encountered is being questioned around my native language and country of origin. I was born and raised in Trinidad and I have a noticeable accent but many people assume that I speak another language other than English because of my accent. In addition, after speaking with me and hearing my accent, people usually assume that I am from Jamaica and that I know about or have consumed marijuana products. On these occasions, I had to correct many false assumptions, while also feeling a sense of frustration.

Future Implications

Stereotypes and Stereotype threats are indeed prevalent in society. Furthermore, we are all vulnerable to stereotype threats can not turn a blind eye. I think the important thing is that in order to overcome these societal practices, we must strive to be intentional and proactive in disrupting the behaviors when done to ourselves/others or when we too are inclined to project the practices onto others. I have encountered many people from diverse groups to know that superiority is not exclusive to any group. Being stereotypes try to distinguish competence and superiority among diverse groups and classes etc. However, the truth upholds that our individuality and inherent and ascribed qualities make us incomparable and unmatchable to any other.

References

  1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stereotype
  2. https://diversity.arizona.edu/sites/default/files/stereotype_threat_overview.pdf
  3. https://www.everydaysociologyblog.com/2012/06/the-impact-of-stereotyping.html
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTYMSulvnyw
  5. http://gal-dem.com/10-questions-caribbean-people-hate-being-asked/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stereotype Threat

Stereotype and stereotype threats:

Stereotypes are “a simplified and standardized conception or image invested with special meaning and held in common by members of a group” (Dictionary,n.d.). Although stereotypes are not as visible in society today, they are still very prominent. People are stereotyped every day intentionally or unintentionally by others.

Stereotype threats are defined as “an individual’s concern with confirming a negative stereotype about his or her group” (Schmader & Hall, 2014). Negative stereotypes of a certain group(s) can have a negative impact on their performance/success.

How stereotypes have impacted my life?

As I shared in my previous blog post, I was born in India and moved to the United States in 2008. Since 2008, I have been fallen victim to stereotypes many times. Two of the statements/comments I have heard people say the most include “You’re Indian/Asian, right? You are very smart and must be good at math and science.” and “You speak English very well. You don’t even have an accent.”

While having people think of you as being very smart may sound very positive, it has had a very negative impact on me. I was always under pressure to perform well academically especially in math and science because that is what everyone expected of me. And, when I didn’t perform so well, I felt like a failure. Furthermore, during the times when I didn’t understand the concept/content, I was too embarrassed to approach the professor or peers to ask for help because of the image that my peers had created of me (being very smart). This certainly impacted my grades negatively.

Another stereotype I often hear from individuals I interact with is that I speak English very well and without an accent. As I reflect back on this stereotype, I don’t believe this has had any negative impact on me. However, this is certainly a negative stereotype as the statement implies that Indian people don’t speak English properly and without an accent.

Future considerations/implications:

As I think of the future, I can’t see a society without stereotypes. Stereotypes are here to stay and will be very hard to eliminate completely.  One way to combat this issue is by recognizing and educating everyone on the issue, and the negative impact it can have on the specific population. However, it starts with us educating ourselves first.

References:

  • Stereotype Threat in School and at Work: Putting Science Into Practice by Toni Schmader and William M. Hall (Canvas)
  • https://www.dictionary.com/browse/stereotype?s=t
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Blog Post 2: Stereotype Threat

Defining Stereotype Threat

The term “stereotype threat” was originally created by researchers who were studying black students and their performance on standardized tests (The Glossary of Education Reform, 2013). The research brought awareness to how people’s performance can be influenced by their awareness of stereotypes centered around their identities. More specifically, stereotype threat is used to describe the likelihood that a stereotype about someone’s identity is true (The Glossary of Education Reform, 2013). Stereotype threat is important to consider as is can weaken the work done by those with minoritized identities. Steel and Aronson’s research found that if student’s racial identities were not emphasized, then the students performed at the same level as their white classmates. In summary, when those identifying within the minority group are reminded of their membership within that group, they tend to perform poorer against those who are members of the dominate group.

How Stereotype Threat Has Impacted My Life

After reading about it this week, I have much more clear understanding of stereotype threat than I thought. However, prior to this week’s readings and activities, I didn’t know what I was experience had a term. Surely anytime that one of my marginalized identities was explicitly mentioned as being associated with lower performance among a group of people, I would find myself meeting those low expectations. Unfortunately, stereotype threat often doesn’t occur so directly (Schmader & Hall, 2014). More often than not, barriers to our success are much more subtle and systemic.

In high school, I had a teacher—we will call him Mr. X—who taught the most difficult math classes available. If you were even remotely interested in racking up math credits that would appropriately prepare you for college coursework, you had to take one of his classes. At the time, I was considering a STEM major in college, so I enrolled in his pre-calculus class. The majority of my classmates were men, and all students were white; this breakdown mirrored the school population.

An aside: While I was reflecting on this experience, I realized that I can’t tell you what the breakdown of other identities were as I was not yet aware of identities beyond sex and race.

I remember the first day of class being an exciting one. I was thrilled to be the only one of my friend group to qualify for the course and eager to get started on learning the material. I was also one of the youngest in the course, so I saw this as a perfect opportunity to network with upperclassmen. I quickly realized that this course was not going to be a walk in the park. No less than two homework assignments deep into the class and I immediately felt like I was floundering. This was new for me as I typically had a knack for science and math; hence, my interest in STEM.

I came early to class one day to ask Mr. X for help on a homework assignment. Mr. X was incredibly confused as to why I was asking for help on “basic pre-calculus principles”. I remember him specifically asking me who I had taken for Algebra II (a prerequisite for the course) and when I told him, he said that is why I was not understanding the material. According to him, my Algebra II teacher was a bad one and as a result I was not going to succeed in his class. Immediately feeling defeated, I left his classroom, and found space to sit alone with my homework until class started.

I came back to Mr. X’s classroom once the bell rang for the school day to begin and sat in the back of the class. To begin the class, Mr. X shared that if you took perquisite courses with poor teachers, or if you were a girl, that you were inherently disadvantaged in his class. He recommended that we buddy up and work harder in order to have a chance at succeeding in the course.

Mr. X had simply confirmed my fear that my female identity made me less intelligent than my male counterparts, particular in STEM. I can say with certainty that while this isn’t the only experience that contributed, that this was one of the main reasons I chose not to go into STEM. I felt as though I wouldn’t fit in and even if I did, someone like Mr. X would work to squeeze me out of the field. Having a lack of self-confidence and a lack of support from an authority figure undoubtedly influenced by decision to drop that class, and ultimately, pursue a different career. However, I didn’t realize this until today.

Implications & Future Considerations

While the testimony I shared above sounds rather disheartening, I am ultimately happy with where I ended up because I can help others facing stereotype threat in an educational environment. Fighting stereotype threat comes in many forms (Schmader & Hall, 2014):

  1. Make or influence policy that has the power to reduce the presence of stereotype threats, thus reducing barriers to success
  2. Aid students in making meaning out of experiences in which they experienced stereotype threat so they are able to recognize and fight against it in the future
  3. Provide direct and sustainable support for minoritized students
  4. Educate those in positions of authority how to appropriately use their power to uplift minoritized students rather than limiting them

This not an exhaustive list of what can be done to identify stereotype threat and reduce how often it occurs. Overall, maintaining high expectations of all students will do wonders for their performance (The Glossary of Education Reform, 2013). Of course, we as educators must still be mindful that our support for students is equitable rather than equal. Everyone deserves to believe they can be successful. However, all students need support to show up a little differently and good educators are able to support students appropriately based upon their unique needs and aspirations.

References

Schmader, T., & Hall, W. M. (2014). Stereotype Threat in School and at Work: Putting Science Into Practice. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 1(1), 30-37. https://doi.org/10.1177/2372732214548861

The Glossary of Education Reform. (2013). Stereotype Threat. Retrieved from https://www.edglossary.org/stereotype-threat/

 

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Stereotype Threat

Stereotype Threat

While stereotypes are commonly understood phenomena, the concept of stereotype threat is not as widely acknowledged. Stereotype threat is defined as:

“… an individual’s concern with confirming a negative stereotype

about his or her group” (Schmader & Hall, 2014).

Stereotype threat can manifest in many different contexts and can be reinforced and perpetuated when organizations/institutions are not actively taking steps to mitigate it. It’s an insidious phenomenon: it can be subtle and difficuly to recognize, but has damaging consequences that build over time and can compromise the success of marginalized groups.

Personal Experience

While stereotype threat can impact all groups of people, women and minority groups are particularly susceptible to its damaging effects. I think this is often very apparent in the context of academia, especially in STEM fields. My identity as a woman in psychological science is enmeshed with expectations and assumptions that some may have (explicitly or implicitly) about women in science.

Just recently, an example of this emerged in our department as a result of an unfortunate “reply-all” accident. Two older male faculty members exchanged a series of emails (which they thought were only being shared between them, but were, in fact, being sent to the entire department listserve) expressing their surprise that their former female students have managed to have successful academic careers AND fulfill roles as wives and mothers. While these comments were not malicious in intent, they still emulate a damaging stereotype: that women cannot balance both a successful academic career and a family.

Stereotypes such as these may make women with family commitments feel as if they do not belong in the academy. Women may feel like they have ‘something to prove’ to show that they can, in fact, manage both work and home life. Again, the definition of stereotype centers on “concern with confirming a negative stereotype about his or her group” (Schmader & Hall, 2014). Over time, the pressure to demonstrate academic success may build if a woman is concerned that any perceived weakness will reinforce the stereotype that she cannot do so while also taking care of her family and children. This may ultimately reduce one’s confidence and the cognitive resources needed to excel in academia.

Moving Forward

Schmader and Hall’s paper, “Stereotype Threat in School and at Work: Putting Science Into Practice” offered a number of potential interventions that have been shown to combat stereotype threat across different contexts. I particularly like the suggestions regarding creating “identity-safe environments”. One way to create a safe environment is to increase diversity and representation within an organization. If a person from a marginalized group can see other people they identify with succeeding in that same space, that may be enough to blunt the effects of stereotype threat. Thus, hiring more individuals from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in the academy can make departments a more inclusive space. In my own department, though the trainees are predominantly female, the faculty are majority male. Hiring more women could improve the culture of our department, and mitigate the stereotypes surrounding women’s roles as academics as well as mothers.

Schmader, T., & Hall, W. M. (2014). Stereotype Threat in School and at Work: Putting Science Into Practice. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 1, 30–37.

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Stereotype Threat

The idea of stereotype threat can be a touchy subject for many. Defined here  as a situation where an individual feels at risk of conforming to stereotypical or negative behaviors of one’s social group (Steele and Aronson, 1995). Such situations could be if a man experienced anxiety about talking to a woman because they could be afraid of confirming the stereotype that all men want is sex. Another could be a black individual being afraid of singing along to certain hip-hop music for fear of the stereotype that all black people are thugs. Everyone usually has one stereotyped identity, and therefore, nearly everyone is impacted by stereotype threat.

I must admit that this is a difficult subject for me. I am a white, straight, middle-class male and these are not typically negatively stereotyped identities. Recently, there have been a few negative stereotypes taking shape in the news, however I have not really been affected by them. The stereotype threat that I have found myself struggling the most with is centered around where I grew up. I was raised in South West Virginia in a small town called Hillsville. My father was a preacher and my mother worked in the courts as a clerk. I grew up running through fields, playing in creeks, fishing, hunting, playing sports in the backyard, and not coming in from the woods until late in the evening. I participated in a lot of the standard activities of someone who grew up in a small town. I went to church, spent time at family gatherings, even dated a horse-girl for a while! I loved my childhood, and I am proud of where I grew up. However, if you met me on the street you would not guess that I was from Hillsville. I didn’t grow up on a farm or drive a loud scary truck. I don’t have a discernible accent (unless I am very mad) or have a particular affinity for the Republican party. I don’t hunt regularly or support the NRA, and I wouldn’t even identify myself as Christian anymore. I am not the stereotypical kid that grew up in Carroll County Virginia, and if you had gone there you would have realized that there are many kids there like me. However, Virginia Tech does not see it that way. I noticed almost immediately the disparity  between students from NOVA and students from everywhere else. Many of these students have little idea about the life  lived by those in the more rural parts of Virginia. So, it became difficult for me to speak about my upbringing without also confirming the negative stereotype of, “everyone from the country is just a dumb, deer hunting hillbilly”. It became especially difficult when people would make the jokes of, “do you have running water where you grew up” or “how many people did you know who dated their cousins”.  It got to the point where speaking about where I came from became an embarrassment to me and I wouldn’t speak about any of the aspects of my childhood for fear that something I said would reinforce negative stereotypes of rural Virginia.

Eventually, I learned to re-embrace my childhood and be less afraid of the stereotypes. Those who know me understand that my childhood helped form who I am and to understand that the rural areas of Virginia are bright and vibrant centers of culture. I am once again proud of my heritage and am less affected by this stereotype threat. However, I am also cognizant of the fact that this is a luxury that not all who suffer from stereotype threat can have. Those who are stereotyped by their race, gender, sexual orientation, and many other categories, are fighting a much more serious, and historically significant, fight than the negative opinions of rural areas. I cannot imaging what it would be like to be constantly worried that my actions might reinforce negative barriers to inclusion that people have be working towards dismantling for hundreds of years. Overall, everyone needs to become more empathetic to the differences between people, and begin to dismantle the ideas that make stereotype threat a problem in the first place.

Steele, C. M., & Aronson, J. (1995). Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance of African-Americans. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology. 69: 797-811.

 

 

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Stereotype Threat

The Prompt:
No matter who you are, where you come from, or the color of your skin, you are faced with stereotypes. This also then means you have inherently been faced with a concept called stereotype threat. Before this blog was assigned, I had no concept of stereotype threat. I had never heard of the phrase prior to reading the blog topic. Now, as I reflect on my life experiences, I realize that even though I am new to the idea, it has impacted my life. In this blog post, I will talk about my struggles and encounters with stereotype threat.

Stereotype and Stereotype Threat Defined:
The terms I believe need to be defined before moving on are stereotype and stereotype threat. Put simply, a stereotype is “a network of belief [that] develops around the group in question” (Blumenfeld & Raymond, p. 23). Personally, I think stereotypes are generally based off of superficial characteristics that have minimal ground to stand on.

Now, stereotype threat reminds me of a self-fulfilling prophecy or labeling theory. To me, all three of these words mean that when a person hears a stereotype or label about a characteristic they embody, the person might unconsciously conform to that stereotype. You are essentially making yourself fit a box. Schmader and Hall claim a stereotype threat “occurs when individuals become concerned that they might confirm a negative stereotype about their group” (2014, p. 30). They also state “the mere awareness of these stereotypes by those who are stigmatized can systematically impair performance and perpetuate the appearance of group differences in ability” (2014, p. 30).

The Impact:
Throughout my twenty-one years of life, I have encountered minimal stereotypes and stereotype threat. However, there is one area of my life where I have seen the most setbacks because of stereotypes, causing stereotype threat. This area is in the dog world.

Dogs are a huge part of my life, and more specifically, working dogs. Working dogs are dogs who are trained for a specific job. These jobs include things such as police canines, explosive detection dogs, narcotic detection dogs, and search and rescue dogs. As I am sure you can imagine, these dogs have an intensity that might be intimidating to some people.

For years, the working dog world has been, and still is, run by men. Just recently, women are becoming more and more involved. Some women have succeeded, while others have not. In the working dog world, there are a lot of preconceived notions about how a dog should be trained. Unfortunately, a lot of the men in this area see women as not being strong enough or hard enough to train and work with these dogs. Cue the stereotype threat.

The women who do tend to succeed in the working dog world are the ones who are seen as “one of the guys”. They are the women who, generally, use harsh methods and conform to the “norm”. I, on the other hand, want to participate in neither of those things.

My goal is to make it into the working dog world without having to change my methods and frame of mind in regard to how the dogs are trained. Unfortunately, because of this, I have struggled. I felt pressure to conform to the “norm” so that I do not “confirm a negative stereotype” (Schmader & Hall, p. 30) about female trainers. I believe I have even performed less than my best because I was worried about confirming stereotypes of being a girl who is not cut out for hard dogs. When in reality, I don’t even know if the men who were watching were judging me in this way.

Recently, I have tried to turn this impact into something positive. I have reached out to and look up to women who have made it big with working dogs and continue to expand my knowledge. Just because the working dog world is “a man’s world” does not mean they can keep me out of it. I will not let stereotype threat keep me from reaching my goals.

The Future:
I am not sure what my future holds at this point in time. However, I have always considered opening my own dog-something business. With that being said, I will want to hire the best of the best as far as employees go. Learning about stereotype threat will be a fantastic asset to a possible business. Now that I know it is alive, and unfortunately well, I can try to reduce its appearance.

In a perfect world, where I am about to open my own business, I will take time to have employees attend diversity training among other training revolved around diversity and stereotypes.

For the time being, until I am wealthy enough to open a business, I will be cognizant of my personal stereotype threats and try not to fall to them. I continue to keep my head up and work hard to show the people in my field what I am capable of. I

Canvas References

Blumenfeld, W J. & Raymond, D. Prejudice and                                          Discrimination, 21-29.

Schmader, T., & Hall, W. M. (2014). Stereotype Threat in                        School and at Work: Putting Science Into Practice. Policy              Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 1(1), 30–            37.

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Blog post 2 – Stereotype threat

What is Stereotype Threat?

Stereotype threats are situations where an individual feels the risk of following any conventional notions (especially negative) about one’s identity group (race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, cultural group etc.). Some of the prevalent experiments and studies show that black people performed worse than white people in standardized tests when they were reminded of their skin color before the test. They performed equally good when the race was not a factor. Similarly, women perform badly in advanced calculus when there is an environment of stereotype created before the exam. [3,4]. Experiments in the past have shown that black faculty experience cases of implicit bias [1]. They have faced stereotypes at every level – academic (poor quality of data) to personal (tight clothings for interviews and presentations) [1]. There are many examples. In totality, stereotypes affect the performance of an individual and also negate aspirations. You can see the video in the references if you like for more knowledge.

How has Stereotype Threat affected my life?

I come from India and people in India have stereotypes about everything. One of the biggest I have seen is that women are good in medical and men perform well in Engineering. So, growing up I always saw more men in engineering colleges and more women in medical colleges. I feel it is something in the mind. I also kind of feel it is a perfect example of implicit bias. How can someone think that a particular gender is good at something? Another example is that people in India think that women are not good at driving. They drive rash and are responsible for accidents. Let us talk about religion now. I am Sikh by religion. Not a lot of people know about Sikhism. I grow a beard and keep my hair. One thing I am often asked almost every time is “Are you a Muslim?”. It is kind of funny to me that people have that notion if you are brown skin and keep a beard, you must be Muslim. I have also seen people telling me that you must be good at math since you are from India. And there are many more. These stereotypes inhibit the growth of an individual. They create a seed of uncertainty in the mind of an individual. At times, you start judging yourself. But, I have made my peace with all these stereotypes. The important thing is to avoid them. Everybody knowingly or unknowingly has biases or stereotypes but the important thing is to recognize them and work towards getting better.

Future steps

I feel stereotypes are there to stay. The situation can be made better. As I said, it should first be tackled at a personal level. At an academic level, diversity training which includes diversity statements, workshops and classes at the college level helps in reducing bias and promotes inclusivity [2]. Discussing topics like biases and the value of diversity puts a better perspective on the issues with the stereotypes prevalent. This class and other 2 classes (Future Professoriate and Contemporary Pedagogy) have changed my way of thinking a little bit. I would encourage my friends and peers to take these three courses. Especially as we were discussing in class, this course should be made compulsory. As graduate students, we never think of diversity, inclusion, biases, stereotypes, etc. but I have realized over time that these are important and need to be addressed.

References (Canvas)

  1. Presenting While Black – Colleen Flaherty
  2. Stereotype Threat in School and at Work: Putting Science Into Practice –Toni Schmader and William M. Hall

References (Additional)

  1. https://www.edglossary.org/stereotype-threat/
  2. https://www.ncwit.org/resources/talk-faculty-colleagues-about-stereotype-threat/talk-faculty-colleagues-about-stereotype
  3. Video – How to avoid gender stereotypes: Eleanor Tabi Haller-Jordan at TEDxZurichhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZFNsJ0-aco

 

 

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The personal impact of stereotype threat

As I mentioned in my introductions post I am hoping to become a faculty member in the future. I am aspiring to do this for a few reasons: 1- I love chicken intestines and that’s a little too weird outside of academia, 2- I am passionate about research and training students which is the hallmark of a faculty position but also because 3- I was told that I wouldn’t be able to get a faculty position. As my friends and family can attest I am quite stubborn so being told I can’t do something will motivate me quite extensively. Upon reflection one of the large reasons I decided to pursue a graduate degree was because a teacher of mine told me I wouldn’t be able to get one. I don’t know why they chose to say that to one of their students; but I have come to think that they said it because they probably didn’t see a female faculty member while attending university.

The lack of female representation in higher education has been seen as a problem for many years now- there are frequent articles about the issue of low female faculty numbers. Many universities have made strides in hiring female faculty members, over the last 10 years the number of female faculty in agriculture has increased from 12 to 23% (Cho, Chakraborty, and Rowland, 2017) but, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics 2016-2017 report only 33% of full professors are female which is below the national average (NCES, 2017). This issue has become more prominent in my life as I have progressed in obtaining degrees in animal science. At Michigan State University where I received my bachelors there were X number of faculty involved in research and teaching that was visible to undergraduate students. When I got my certificate in Poultry Science through the Midwest Poultry Consortium Center of Excellence scholarship program there were only two female faculty that taught in the program those numbers have shifted in more recent years but still remain less than half. In my master’s program at Auburn University there were only five female faculty members out of 14 total faculty positions in the poultry science department and only one of them was a full professor.

As a result of the lower number of female faculty members most of the mentors I’ve had have been men. There is nothing explicitly wrong with that except that in my case it is largely because I have not had the privilege of getting to work with many female faculty that could serve as a mentor to me. As a result I have worked to build peer networks with many of the female students I know in poultry science with the goal of providing support and sharing knowledge.

Another way this issue has impacted my life experience is the unspoken requirement that I excel at everything I do. I feel this pressure to be perfect because as soon as I screw up I feel that I will be dismissed as just another girl trying to do science. This sense creates an unnatural competitive environment that contaminates my experience working in the laboratory with my lab mates. I felt this most severely in my master’s position. When I started another female student was finishing her PhD- she was largely regarded as the most successful student to come out of that research program and had won many awards during her time there. The lab manager shared with me that I had been recommended to the research program as a younger version of that student and that another girl had just been asked to leave the program because she didn’t cut it. Knowing that made me feel an extreme sense of imposture syndrome and hypervigilant about everything that I did.(Insert citation for class paper) Looking back I see that this is a clear example of stereotype threat playing out. I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to live up to the successful female in the lab and would be kicked out like the other girl before me. I started doubting my abilities and analyzing everything I did looking for differences that didn’t exist before.

Because of my negative experience I often think about what I would like to do differently when I (hopefully) have my own research program and am hiring students. I worry that I will pass on the same experience by inadvertently perpetuating the belief that any students I take on (especially female) will feel they have to be just like me. I worry about this for two reasons: mainly I don’t want any person to feel like I did during my master’s program but also stereotypes contribute to the continuation of the cycle of prejudice and discrimination that keeps society divided. (Check out this video by Khan academy that explains this much better than I could) So far my worrying has not been very productive and I have not come up with any solid suggestions for how to combat the stereotype threat I feel. I did appreciate that the article Dr. Grimes shared in the Week 5 module: Stereotype threat in work and schools: putting science into practice (Schamder and Hall, 2014). That article mentioned that those at risk of stereotype threat should understand the anxiety that they may feel as a result of stereotypes and to spend time reflecting on their values and purpose. I am a large proponent of self-reflection and encourage everyone to dedicate time to reflecting on their goals and experiences. I will definitely strive to pass this lesson on to any future students of mine.

References

               Cho, A., D. Chakraborty, and D. Rowland. 2017. Gender representation in faculty and leadership at land grant and research institutions. Agron. J. 109:14-22.

National Center for Education Statistics [NCES]. 2017. Characteristics of Postsecondary Faculty. Figure 2. Chapter: 4/Postsecondary Education Section: Postsecondary Environments and Characteristics: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/pdf/coe_csc.pdf

Schamder, T. and W.M. Hall. 2014. Stereotype threat in work and schools: putting science into practice. Policy insights from the behavioral and brain sciences. 1:30-37.

If anyone has any similar experiences or ideas on how to prevent this from happening to others please share it with me. Thank you for reading enjoy this sassy chick pic as a break from the seriousness.

-SE

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Blog Post #2

What is stereotype threat?

When first reading the prompt I had no idea what a stereotype threat was or what it entailed. I had to do some research on the exactly what was a stereotype threat. This research lead to many websites that state that stereotype threat is “the risk of confirming negative stereotypes about an individual’s racial, ethnic, gender, or cultural group, which was coined by Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson.” (Stereotype Threat, 2013).  Once I found the definition I was still a little confused on how this truly worked in our minds, so I also looked for some examples that helped me understand stereotype threat better. The best example I found was “the stereotype threat that women experience in math-related domains may cause them to feel that they do not belong in math classes. Consequently they may ‘‘disidentify’’ with math as an important domain, that is, avoid or drop the domain as an identity or basis of self-esteem—all to avoid the evaluative threat they might feel in that domain (Major, Spencer, Schmader, Wolfe, & Crocker, 1998; Steele, 1992, 1997).” I believe that examples like these happen daily and can be seen throughout our society.

 

How has stereotype threat that has impacted in my life?

To start off, I have never really thought about stereotype threat, obviously, or how it could/ already has impacted me and my life. Once I started to think about the issue though, I was able to come up some ways that stereotype threat has affected me. Being a white male I believe that I have been impacted by stereotype threat, but in the opposite way of some of my classmates. I believe that stereotype threat has done exactly what the examples say, but I would be the person that would be benefitting from the stereotype threat. In most of the examples, it talks about females or minorities facing stereotype threat almost always being compared to white males. So I believe that when I was growing up that I was the one benefitting from these, even though I can not think of specific examples. Then I tried to think of how stereotype threat has affected me in a negative way.

As an agricultural student I believe that people put stereotypes on me, which is truly the only stereotype threat that I can apply to my life at this moment. I have seen some people that I associate with try to be demeaning when it comes to academics because I am an agricultural student. When I was an undergraduate I used to have roommates of all different majors, which I believe made it harder sometimes when I was working on my academics. This also goes along with when I tell my friends or distant family members that major is animal science that they do not really see me potentially working with nutrition of animals, but instead they just see me being a farmer. This stereotype of animal science students only being seen as farmers puts down myself when looking at academics, even though I know I took a majority of the same science level classes as my roommates taking biology or pre-medicine. This stereotype overall though, makes me question myself if I am up to the same standards as my friends.

 

Future Considerations

A future consideration that I have would be a hope that I can be part of the change in the stereotype threat that impacts my peers around me and myself. There was a main takeaway I took away from the readings, which it may be a simple takeaway, but it is truly hard. The main takeaway I got was we as a society need to build each other up, instead of building walls between us and putting each other down. In an article by the APA, Joshua Aronson stated “we can do a lot to boost both achievement and the enjoyment of school by understanding and attending to these psychological processes, thereby unseating the power of stereotypes and prejudice to foil the academic aspirations of the young people who, just by virtue of being born black, brown, or female, are subjected to suspicions of inferiority” (APA, 2006). I thought that was a great statement and definitely should be brought around our schools to allow this to happen across the nation and globe.

There is an issue with this though because being humans we try to fix something, but could end up making that thing worse. I believe that working away from stereotype threat is a difficult task to perform because there are many implications that can be brought into consideration. There are two examples of these implications in our reading on canvas for class on stereotype threat. The first implication brought up by Schmader and Hall if we try to help minorities, then the members of the majority could feel that they are now at a competitive disadvantage. Then there is also a second risk of some backlash from the underrepresented groups. The backlash from the minorities can come about because it can seem that “they require remedial interventions because they are somehow deficient in their skills or abilities” (Cohen, Steele, & Ross, 1999). That is why I think that working away from the stereotype threat seems simple, but it is actually truly hard.

Sources:

(n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/research/action/stereotype

Partnership, G. S. (2013, August 29). Stereotype Threat Definition. Retrieved from https://www.edglossary.org/stereotype-threat/

Schmader, T., & Hall, W. M. (2014). Stereotype Threat in School and at Work. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences1(1), 30–37. doi: 10.1177/2372732214548861

Cohen, G. L., Steele, C. M., & Ross, L. D. (1999). The mentor’s dilemma: Providing critical feedback across the racial divide. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 1302-1318.

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