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Title: Men are brilliant, women are not? Gender stereotypes undermine girls' prospects in brilliance-oriented fields
Authors: Zhao, Siqi
Keywords: Social sciences::Psychology
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Nanyang Technological University
Source: Zhao, S. (2021). Men are brilliant, women are not? Gender stereotypes undermine girls' prospects in brilliance-oriented fields. Doctoral thesis, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Abstract: Women are vastly underrepresented in fields that emphasize the quality of brilliance, such as science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). This thesis seeks to explain the origins of female underrepresentation in brilliance-oriented fields using the Field-specific Ability Beliefs (FAB) model (Leslie, Cimpian, et al., 2015). The FAB model states that a gender stereotype about brilliance, combined with the belief that certain fields require sheer brilliance to succeed, will suppress female participation in those fields. The present research analyzes the gender-brilliance stereotype and the field-specific ability belief about math (i.e., the math-brilliance belief) as potential predictors of early gender differences in brilliance-oriented fields. Three studies were conducted with an aggregate sample of 914 adults and 993 children aged 6 to 16 years. Both implicit and explicit measures were administered. In Study 1, adults completed implicit and explicit measures of the gender-brilliance stereotype. The implicit measure revealed the prevalence of this stereotype in Singapore. In Study 2, children aged 8 to 12 and their parents completed the implicit stereotype measure used and validated in Study 1. Children’s implicit gender-brilliance stereotypes increased with age. Girls’ career aspirations toward brilliance-oriented fields were inversely related to their implicit stereotypes at a younger age. Study 3 examined the math-brilliance belief among children aged 6 to 16 and their parents with implicit and explicit measures. Children and parents unanimously believed that success in math requires brilliance (relative to reading). Only children’s implicit math-brilliance beliefs showed an age-related increase. In Study 3, participants also completed an explicit measure of the gender-brilliance stereotype. Boys, particularly younger boys, exhibited the stereotype on the explicit measure. Girls, by contrast, did not attribute brilliance to either gender when directly questioned. Children’s math-brilliance beliefs and gender-brilliance stereotypes were indicative of gender differences in STEM outcomes (i.e., grade and aspiration). Furthermore, parent-child stereotype/belief correspondence was found in Studies 2 and 3, with age moderating the correlations between parents’ and children’s stereotypes. The findings corroborated the FAB model—the gender-brilliance stereotype and the math-brilliance belief explained gender disparities in early achievement and aspirations. Among younger girls, the gender-brilliance stereotype predicted poorer STEM grades and weaker intentions to pursue brilliance-oriented occupations. In terms of the math-brilliance belief, girls who endorsed the belief were less likely to aspire to STEM careers, whereas boys who exhibited the belief were more likely to aspire to STEM careers. With age, these associations became stronger. The findings also pointed to the role of parental socialization in understanding children’s acquisition of the gender-brilliance stereotype and the math-brilliance belief. Positive correlations were observed between parents’ and younger children’s implicit stereotypes, as well as between parents’ and older children’s explicit stereotypes. Additionally, parents’ and children’s explicit math-brilliance beliefs were positively correlated regardless of age. As early as primary school, a culturally shared gender stereotype about brilliance, together with the belief that math is a highly brilliance-oriented domain, may discourage girls from pursuing STEM. These early gendered outcomes may persist and ultimately perpetuate gender imbalances in STEM fields. Findings from the present research underline the necessity of implementing interventions targeting both children and parents to curb the leaky STEM pipeline at its origin.
Schools: School of Social Sciences 
Rights: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).
Fulltext Permission: embargo_20240604
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
Appears in Collections:SSS Theses

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