Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Christine Reyna, PhD
Bernadette Sanchez, PhD
Verena Graupmann, PhD
Research shows that women’s educational progress in scientific (STEM) fields is limited by negative stereotypes about their abilities in such fields. These negative stereotypes may be internalized by women and adversely affect their academic self-concept and progress in STEM fields. In the case of women in higher education who study in STEM fields, their knowledge that they are stereotyped as having less ability than men in those fields may result in a stereotype threat that reduces their performance in cognitive tests and reduces their academic self-perception in regard to STEM domains.
Most research on the negative female stereotype and stereotype threat in STEM fields has been conducted in Western countries. Little research has been conducted on women studying in STEM fields in universities in Saudi Arabia. It is important that such research be conducted because of Saudi Arabia’s unique cultural limitations on women and the strength of the country’s female stereotypes. Due to these circumstances, Western research results may not be applicable to Saudi women. Western results may also not be applicable to Saudi women because women higher education in Saudi Arabia occurs mostly in women-only institutions, unlike in the West. This study aimed to contribute new research to fill the gap in the literature regarding gender stereotypes about women in science majors in academia within Saudi society by examining how exposure to types of stereotype about women’s science ability (stereotype threat vs. positive stereotype) impact academic performance (in terms of math test results) and self-perceptions in science (in terms of science identity, science self-efficacy, belief about science, and overall academic science self-perception) for women STEM/medical students in different types of gender classrooms (classes only for women vs. mixed gender classes) at university in Saudi Arabia. In addition, the study investigated the interaction between the types of gender classrooms and the types of stereotype about women’s academic science ability on math performance and self-perceptions in science.
These questions were tested by using the data that were collected from 634 Saudi women college students. The results found that students who were exposed to stereotype threat had lower math test scores and lower academic self-perception than women who were exposed to a positive statement about their STEM abilities. The study also found that women in mixed-gender classes had higher math test scores and academic self-perception than women in women-only classes. In addition, the results showed that in stereotype threat experiment condition women scored equally low in the math test regardless the type of gender classrooms. However, in the positive stereotype experiment condition, women in mixed-gender classrooms scored significantly higher in math test score compared to the women in single-gender classrooms. For the academic science self-perceptions, the results also showed a significant interaction effect of gender classroom type and stereotype about women’s academic science ability; indicating the effect of stereotype depended on the type of the classroom. In the threat experiment condition, women were significantly lower in academic self-perceptions both types of gender classrooms. However, women who were exposed to positive stereotypes in mixed classrooms scored significantly higher in academic self-perceptions compared to women who were exposed to positive stereotypes in single gender classrooms.
These findings provide evidence that female Saudi students in STEM fields were above the midpoint of the scales on science self-perception (averaging on the positive ends of the scale), which may indicated to good level of academic self-perception in science. More specifically, when they are in mixed gender classrooms, the positive message support them to buffer themselves against negatives stereotypes to define their capabilities, and thy see themselves as being very capable in STEM subjects.
Omair, Ali Hadi, "Stereotype Threat and STEM Self-Perceptions of Saudi College Women" (2019). College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations. 292.