Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Faculty of Science
Mindi D. Foster
Anne E. Wilson
Disparaging remarks that female scientists are ‘Distractingly Sexy’ (Waxman, 2015) and ‘Too Pretty to Do Math’ t-shirts (Amazon.com) highlight the common belief that women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) violate perceived gender norms. However, by confronting these beliefs, women may incur a ‘double-dose’ of hostility; once for being present in science, and again because of the confrontation itself (Kaiser & Miller, 2001). Across three studies, this research tested how women confronting sexism in STEM contexts would elicit and anticipate social costs. Study 1 showed that male participants rated a hypothetical female confronter in STEM higher in bossiness and stupidity than did female participants. Study 2 showed that female STEM majors who imagined themselves confronting (vs. ignoring) sexism in science anticipated being labelled as bossier, and perceived science as more difficult. Thus, across two studies, social and personal costs of confronting sexism were more strongly elicited and anticipated in STEM versus arts. Study 3 assessed how different sexism types and styles of confrontation influenced social and personal costs among women in STEM. As predicted, those who imagined confronting sexism with anger (vs. education, indirect, or a no confrontation control condition) anticipated the greatest social costs, while those who imagined confronting with education anticipated fewer costs than those imagining anger, but greater costs than those imagining an indirect response or inaction. Those imagining an indirect confrontation anticipated greater social costs than those who imagined ignoring sexism, but lower personal costs such as less STEM difficulty and greater STEM efficacy and identity. Findings suggest the complex nature of women’s responses to sexism, extending previous social costs literature into a scientific context.
Hennessey, Eden J.V., "Confronting Sexism in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM): What Are the Consequences?" (2018). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 2054.