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.


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.

The Reason Behind Diversity for a Global Society

The Prompt

There are many reasons for a student to take a class about diversity. Most of these reasons, I assume, are personal, while some are related to department or certification requirements. In the following paragraphs, I will address my personal reasons for signing up for Diversity for a Global Society.

Underlying Reason

While emailing back and forth with my graduate advisor, I had asked her what courses were required to receive a master’s degree in animal and poultry sciences. My research advisor had mentioned that there were very few required courses that I would need to take and the rest would be completely up to my desires and interests. Before looking over the required courses, I assumed they would be related to animal science. Little did I know I would have to take a diversity course, however, I was pleasantly surprised.
Before glancing at the course description, or times offered, I decided that I would try to “get it out of the way” during my first semester on campus. I figured it would be a good way to get to know a few people outside of animal and poultry sciences. Other thoughts were also running through my mind as I clicked register on Hokie Spa.  I started thinking about how this would be a great class, considering I grew up and attended undergrad in a community with little diversity. The majority of the people I was surrounded by had the same skin color, same religion, and the same ethnicity. I didn’t get exposed to a diverse anything for the first 20 or so years of my life.

The Goal

Even though we have only met for class twice, I feel as though I have already learned an incredible amount information, from not only the class readings and discussions, but also the diverse student population that makes up the class. Some of the most interesting things, to me, that have been covered in class so far include the cycle of socialization and the difference between equity and equality.  In classes and experiences in life, I knew there was a way in which humans socialize and learn “appropriate” behaviors,  but I had never considered it to be a concept put to words.

Throughout the next 13, or so, weeks, I hope to make personal connections with Dr. Grimes and the students in the class. I hope to learn about their life experiences and how it has shaped who they are today. I also hope to get the opportunity to share my experiences and thoughts relating to topics covered in class. 

As far a class content is concerned, I hope to be a sponge. A personal goal of mine is to stay open and accept new ideas and ways of thinking in regard to diversity and the world. By the end of the semester, I truly hope that the way I think about and approach diversity has changed, or I know how to commit to change.  Currently, I am knowledgeable when it comes to words and definitions revolving around diversity. What I hope to get out of this class is practical application. I want to be overall more inclusive and willing to talk about the issues that are common and constantly seen surrounding diversity, on and off campus.

Intro Blog Post

Hi everyone, my name is Hannah Decker. I use the pronouns she/her. I am a first-year master’s student in the animal and poultry science department. I am originally from Boise, Idaho and completed my undergrad degree in Montana at a tiny, private liberal arts college. I received a B.A. in Anthrozoology. Anthrozoology is the study of human-animal interactions and relationships, so essentially it is the study of the human-animal bond. The reason I am at Virginia Tech is to start a citizen science program in Blacksburg and the surrounding areas. I will be teaching the community how to train their dogs to, hopefully, be conservation scent detection canines. Before a few weeks ago, I had never been to Virginia, but I look forward to exploring Blacksburg and this part of the country. During my free time, I train my service dog in training and enjoy walking around town. I look forward to getting to know everyone in the class and exploring the different avenues of diversity with you all.

The picture below is of me and a dog I trained in undergrad. She is now the first known archaeological scent detection canine.