As I am currently conducting research with Dr. Crystal Hoyt on growth mindset and stereotype threat (regarding drug/alcohol addiction), I was extremely excited to read her article “Managing to clear the air: Stereotype threat, women, and leadership” with Susan Murphy. In this post, I want to predominantly respond to the concept of stereotype threat as defined by the authors, because I think it pertains greatly to Critical Thinking as a course, and how we consume information. Stereotype threat is defined as “‘the concrete, real-time threat of being judged and treated poorly in settings where a stereotype about one’s group applies’ (Steele, Spencer, & Aronson, 2002, p. 385)” (p. 388). This so-called stereotype threat is what can cause female underrepresentation in the workplace and leadership positions of all types. As I mentioned in my Implicit Bias test post, I took a class last semester where we learned in-depth about the social implications of gender/sexual/racial/ethnic/ability/etc. underrepresentation at work, but Hoyt & Murphy hone in on the psychological implications. For people who do not fit the major social identities seen as a leader– white and male–, they may face great bias and discrimination. While stereotype threat occurs across many social identities as I mentioned above, Hoyt & Murphy broadly focus on women in leadership and how these individuals are impacted by stereotype threat. For women in leadership, stereotype threat is evoked in many ways, such as explicit exposure to sexist commentary, being in the numerical minority (i.e. one woman in a large conference room full of men), and in other cues such as the media. This can lead to what the authors refer to as “vulnerability responses” where the woman may disengage or have an inhibited performance at work as a result.
It worries me that stereotype threat remains so prevalent in all types of workplaces– ranging from wage jobs to the tech industry– and the psychological implications it has on the group deemed socially inferior (in this article, for women). I am hopeful that with training in different spaces and an activist push for equality at work for people of a wide range of social identities we can reduce the harm stereotype threat imposes.