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)

  3. Video – How to avoid gender stereotypes: Eleanor Tabi Haller-Jordan at TEDxZurich



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