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Archives of Scientific Psychology 2019, 7, 12–21 © 2019 American Psychological Association DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/arc0000058 2169-3269 Archives of Scientific Psychology www.apa.org/pubs/journals/arc SPECIAL SECTION: ADVANCING GENDER EQUALITY IN THE WORKPLACE Answering Prospective Student E-Mails: The Effect of Student Gender, Individuation, and Goals Carmen Young Rice University Naomi M. Fa-Kaji Stanford University Shannon Cheng, Margaret E. Beier, and Mikki Hebl Rice University ABSTRACT Women continue to be underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Past research has demonstrated that gender stereotypes can perpetuate this disparity by influencing people’s perceptions of prospective students. This study used manipulations of individuation (individuated vs. nonindividuated) and goal type (agentic vs. communal) to examine STEM professors’ receptiveness toward male and female prospective students’ e-mail requests for meetings. Nonin- dividuated students simply sent a meeting request; individuated students provided an additional statement highlighting their research experience. Agentic goal types focused on stereotypically “male” traits such as agency and leadership, and communal goal types focused on stereotypically “female” traits such as helping and serving. Based on previous research, it was hypothesized that professors would show a positive bias toward male students, individuated students, and students with goal types that were congruent with the stereotypes of their gender. E-mails were sent to a sample of 1,879 STEM professors who had previously recommended their female students for a career development workshop. Findings indicate more receptive responses toward female prospective students, more receptive responses from male professors, and an interaction between prospective student gender and goal type. Male prospective students received less receptive responses when they mentioned a communal goal (vs. agentic); however, female prospective students received responses similar in receptiveness, regardless of goal type. The implications of these results are mixed, which may be a function of the sample of professors who engaged in the study (i.e., faculty who had previously engaged in activities supportive to female mentees). Future research directions are discussed. SCIENTIFIC ABSTRACT In this study, individuation (individuated vs. nonindividuated) and goal type (agentic vs. communal) were manipulated to examine STEM professors’ receptiveness toward male and female prospective students’ e-mail requests for meetings. Editor’s Note. Eden B. King served as the action editor for this article.—CRR This article was published November 25, 2019. Carmen Young, Department of Psychology, Rice University; Naomi M. Fa-Kaji, Department of Organizational Behavior, Stanford University; Shannon Cheng, Margaret E. Beier, and Mikki Hebl, Department of Psychology, Rice University. Carmen Young is now at Marriott International, Bethesda, Maryland. This article is part of the special section “Advancing Gender Equality in the Workplace.” The guest editors for this section are Mikki Hebl and Eden B. King. The authors have made the data that underlie the analyses presented in this article available for use by others (see Young, Fa-Kaji, Cheng, Beier, & Hebl, 2019), thus allowing replication and potential extensions of this work by qualified researchers. Next users are obligated to involve the data originators in their publication plans, if the originators so desire (see the data repository link after the keywords link). There is no conflict of interest or funding associated with the research, authorship, or production of this article. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Shannon Cheng, Department of Psychology, Rice University, MS-25, Houston, TX 77005. E-mail: email@example.com This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. Content may be shared at no cost, but any requests to reuse this content in part or whole must go through the American Psychological Association. ANSWERING PROSPECTIVE STUDENT E-MAILS 13 E-mails were sent to a sample of 1,879 STEM professors who had previously recommended their female students for a career development workshop. Findings indicate more receptive responses toward female prospective students, more receptive responses from male professors, and an interaction between prospective student gender and goal type; male prospective students received less receptive responses when they mentioned a communal goal (vs. agentic); however, female prospective students received responses similar in receptiveness, regardless of goal type. Keywords: gender, STEM, stereotypes, discrimination, academia Data repository: http://dx.doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR37243.v1 Despite strong efforts to increase the number of women entering congruity theory of prejudice (Eagly & Karau, 2002). The potential traditionally male-dominated science, technology, engineering, and negative effect of stereotype-inconsistent goal information may also mathematics (STEM) fields, underrepresentation of women in these impact men if they provide communal (i.e., more stereotypically female) goal information. This study was designed to investigate these careers persists (Diekman, Brown, Johnston, & Clark, 2010; Meyer, possibilities, utilizing an audit technique similar to that used by Cimpian, & Leslie, 2015). Although some of this disparity may be the Milkman and colleagues (2012) and other researchers examining the result of socialization—women have not traditionally been encour- potential discrimination that arises with respect to resume and inter- aged to pursue STEM careers—even women who do choose to enter view callbacks (e.g., Bertrand & Mullainathan, 2004; Derous, Ryan, a STEM field have a higher dropout rate compared to their male & Nguyen, 2012; Hebl, Foster, Mannix, & Dovidio, 2002; King & counterparts (Price, 2010). Moreover, fewer women are reaching the Ahmad, 2010). We hope to provide new insight into the current highest levels of prestige within their disciplines (Ceci & Williams, literature on how women are treated in male-dominated fields (spe- 2011; Ceci, Williams, & Barnett, 2009; Griffith, 2010). These patterns cifically STEM), how differential treatment may manifest in e-mail suggest that there may be other underlying mechanisms holding correspondence, and how women can combat the potential discrimi- women back in these fields. nation they may face. In highly competitive STEM fields, the support and encouragement of a mentor can make a meaningful difference in women’s decisions to pursue a career in a chosen discipline (Sonnert, Fox, & Adkins, Gender of the Prospective Student 2007; Stout, Dasgupta, Hunsinger, & McManus, 2011). This may be particularly true for younger women, who may be less certain about Previous research has examined the effect of target gender on persisting in STEM (Griffith, 2010). Because younger individuals evaluative ratings, and although studies have demonstrated mixed often look to established professionals for help and guidance, the results, there is evidence for bias against women in performance responsiveness of potential mentors and their willingness to help evaluations and hiring decisions (e.g., Bauer & Baltes, 2002; Davison aspiring scientists is critical (Dennehy & Dasgupta, 2017; Estrada, & Burke, 2000; Heilman, 2012). This bias may be the result of gender Hernandez, & Schultz, 2018). Although the majority of STEM pro- stereotypes and how women are often seen as high in warmth but low fessionals might agree with the importance of increasing the repre- in competence within the stereotype content model (Eagly, Wood, & sentation of women in STEM, many may still hold biases—conscious Diekman, 2000; Fiske, Cuddy, Glick, & Xu, 2002). In STEM, this or not—that affect interactions with women looking to enter a partic- stereotype has previously resulted in women’s being perceived as ular discipline. If these biases manifest themselves in the differential lacking competence and being poor at math (Nosek et al., 2009; treatment of women and men, such as the willingness to assist young Steele, 1997), which may influence how receptive STEM professors women scientists, these biases could have an impact on the number of are toward prospective students who may be interested in meeting or women choosing to enter into, and persist in, STEM careers. working with them. As previously mentioned, Milkman and col- This study examines whether, and to what extent, gender bias leagues (2012) found that, compared to women and ethnic minorities, affects professor receptiveness to prospective graduate students in Caucasian male students received a higher percentage of responses STEM. We build on Milkman, Akinola, and Chugh’s (2012) study, and meeting request acceptances from professors (Milkman et al., which found discrimination against women and ethnic minorities 2012). In a follow-up analyses, they found that these effects were compared to Caucasian men, when fictional prospective students of stronger in higher paying disciplines and private institutions (Milk- these demographic characteristics e-mailed requests to meet with man, Akinola, & Chugh, 2015). professors in doctoral programs at the top 260 U.S. universities. Based In situations where people first encounter another individual, they on these results, we examine potential individual factors, such as the often do not have much information about them; as a result, they may extent to which prospective students individuate themselves (state- rely more on stereotypes and respond based on those stereotypes— ment of research experience vs. no statement) and the extent to which whether consciously or subconsciously (Fiske & Neuberg, 1990; they express agentic or communal goals (focused on leading vs. Macrae, Milne, & Bodenhausen, 1994). In the present study, profes- focused on helping), and the role that these factors may play in sors did not have much information about the students they were remediating discrimination for women looking to pursue STEM ca- receiving e-mails from and may have relied on gender stereotypes reers. when responding. Their responses were analyzed beyond response Due to the well-known, albeit inaccurate, stereotype that women rate and meeting request acceptances; here, the content of the response have weaker abilities in STEM (e.g., Spencer, Steele, & Quinn, 1999), was examined for how receptive the professor was toward meeting providing individuating information may counteract these stereotypes with the prospective student. by allowing people to see beyond these initial categorizations and perceptions (Fiske & Neuberg, 1990). However, providing agentic Hypothesis 1: Professors will be more receptive to a meeting (i.e., more stereotypically male) goal information may actually gen- request from a male prospective student than a female prospective student. erate backlash or negative evaluations for women, due to the role This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. Content may be shared at no cost, but any requests to reuse this content in part or whole must go through the American Psychological Association. 14 YOUNG, FA-KAJI, CHENG, BEIER, AND HEBL incongruent with the stereotypes of their gender. As such, pro- Individuation fessors will be more receptive to male prospective students with People utilize stereotypes, often subconsciously, as sources of agentic goal types compared to male students with communal information about individuals they do not know well (e.g., Fiske et al., goal types and more receptive to female prospective students with 2002; Riek, Mania, & Gaertner, 2006). Stereotypes, like other cogni- communal goal types compared to female students with agentic tive shortcuts, aid in faster information processing but can lead to goal types. mistakes when applied systematically to groups of people, such as women or racial minorities. To counter negative stereotypes, stigma- Gender of the Professor tized individuals can provide individuating information, or informa- tion about themselves beyond what is known from their group mem- Although participant gender is not an independent variable in the study bership. Based on Fiske and Neuberg’s (1990) continuum of design, we examined whether professor gender has an effect on recep- impression formation, individuation allows others to rely less on tiveness toward prospective students. Professors of a certain gender may information gained from stereotypes, such as the stereotype that be more likely to help overall, which could be valuable information for a women are not as competent in STEM fields, and encourages more prospective graduate student to know. In addition, an interaction between complex evaluations of individuals. Multiple studies have demon- prospective student gender and professor gender may exist. For example, strated the effectiveness of individuation strategies in reducing gender it is possible that ingroup bias may make professors more receptive prejudice and discrimination (Isaac, Lee, & Carnes, 2009; Koch, toward students whose gender matches their own (Brewer, 2007; DiDo- D’Mello, & Sackett, 2015; Morgan, Walker, Hebl, & King, 2013). For nato, Ullrich, & Krueger, 2011), and some researchers have suggested example, in their meta-analysis on gender bias in employment that ingroup bias may be higher among women than among men (Rud- decision-making, Koch and colleagues (2015) found that providing man & Goodwin, 2004). one or more pieces of individuating information decreased gender bias Conversely, this ingroup favoritism may be reversed in some situa- in these decisions, particularly for male-dominated fields. This strat- tions, such as when women are in situations where they are more likely egy is commonly focused on providing any type of personal informa- to compare themselves to each other than to men (e.g., in male-dominated tion that a perceiver can draw on, instead of preconceived stereotypes. fields). As described in Sheppard and Aquino’s (2017) model of intrasex In this study, we provide information about the student’s research conflict, in these types of situations, women may feel threatened by other experience, because it was the most relevant personal information to women, feeling as if they need to compete against each other for the same include in a meeting request e-mail. limited resources. This idea has also been explored through what is called the “queen bee” effect, which examines why higher status women, Hypothesis 2: Professors will be more receptive to an individu- particularly in male-dominated professions like STEM, may be less likely ated prospective student than a nonindividuated prospective stu- to help other women than their male colleagues might be (Derks, van dent. This effect will be stronger for female prospective students Laar, & Ellemers, 2016). This phenomenon has been proposed as a than for male prospective students, because the individuation consequence of gender discrimination itself, as women adjust to a more provided in this study more strongly counters stereotypes of masculine culture and distance themselves from other women due to women in STEM. social identity threat (Derks et al., 2016). Rather than looking out for younger women, senior women may try to reduce the association be- Goal Type tween themselves and less successful women, seeing this as a way to survive in a male-dominated field. In conclusion, it is uncertain whether Individuals of a particular gender are often perceived to be better and how professor gender might affect receptiveness toward prospective suited to particular careers or areas of study than are those of the other students. As such, we examine the effect of professor gender on respon- gender (Gaucher, Friesen, & Kay, 2011; Lyness & Heilman, 2006). siveness in our analyses but pose this as a research question rather than Social role theory states that men are expected to display agentic make any specific hypotheses. qualities (e.g., independence, assertiveness, self-confidence) and women are expected to display communal qualities (e.g., friendliness, Research Question 1: How does professor gender influence the unselfishness, concern for others; Eagly & Wood, 1991). Indeed, job relationships between professor receptiveness and prospective advertisements for male-dominated careers, such as those in STEM student gender, individuation, and goal type? fields, tend to use more agentic words associated with male stereo- types (e.g., leader, competitive, dominant; Gaucher et al., 2011). If Method professors are given information about a prospective student’s gender, inferences about the student’s traits will likely be consistent with stereotypes for the student’s gender (Haines, Deaux, & Lofaro, 2016). Participants Furthermore, the role congruity theory of prejudice states that per- This study was performed with approval of the Institutional ceived incongruity between gender stereotypes and the stereotypes Review Board of the primary author’s institution. We obtained a associated with a particular role or occupation can result in negative list of professors in STEM fields through a STEM career devel- evaluations (Eagly & Karau, 2002; Heilman, 2012; Rudman, Moss- opment workshop held at a private university in the southern Racusin, Phelan, & Nauts, 2012). For example, agentic women are United States for senior female graduate students and postdoctoral often perceived as cold and interpersonally hostile, and communal researchers across the country. These professors were the advisers men are often seen as weak and passive (Heilman, 2012). These of the graduate students and postdoctoral researchers who partic- negative reactions may dissuade men and women from deviating from ipated in the workshop. We excluded professors on the list who their prescribed gender stereotypes, further contributing to the were not located at institutions in the United States, as well as any strength of the stereotypes. professors not in STEM fields as designated by the Department of Hypothesis 3: Professors will be more receptive to prospective Homeland Security’s (DHS) “STEM-Designated Degree Program students whose goal types are congruent with the stereotypes of List” (Department of Homeland Security, 2012). In addition, we their gender than to prospective students whose goal types are removed professors in psychology from the list, as well as those in This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. Content may be shared at no cost, but any requests to reuse this content in part or whole must go through the American Psychological Association. ANSWERING PROSPECTIVE STUDENT E-MAILS 15 biological disciplines not combined with other disciplines (e.g., of the e-mail. In the individuated condition, the same e-mail was used disciplines such as bioengineering and biochemistry were re- with the addition of a sentence highlighting the prospective student’s tained). Because psychology and biology tend to have higher related research experience (e.g., I am currently working on a senior numbers of women than do other fields, women may not face the thesis and have been an undergraduate research assistant for the past same types of obstacles in entering these fields (Ecklund, Lincoln, two semesters). In the agentic goal-type condition, an additional & Tansey, 2012; England & Li, 2006). sentence was included to highlight stereotypically male traits such as E-mails were sent to 1,879 participants (78% male). Of these, 114 agency and leadership (e.g., I want to go into a career where I have participants were excluded from the analyses due to bounced e-mails the potential to make new discoveries and lead future generations). In (N 71), retired status (N 29), detection of the manipulation (N the communal goal-type condition, this additional sentence high- 3), or other e-mail delivery issues (N 11). Another 605 participants lighted stereotypically female traits of helping and serving (e.g., I did not respond to the e-mail; however, they were still included in the want to go into a career where I have the potential to help other analyses and coded as nonresponses. Thus, data from 1,765 partici- people and serve future generations). The precise wording of the pants were used (77% male). e-mails was as follows: Dear Professor [surname of professor], Materials and Procedure I am writing you because I am a prospective doctoral student who is The study was a 2 (prospective student gender: male or female) 2 interested in your research. I’m applying to doctoral programs this fall (individuation: no individuation or individuation) 2 (goal type: agentic because I want to go into a career where I have the potential to [goal-type or communal) between-subjects design. The delivered e-mails were os- condition]. [individuation condition]. tensibly from prospective doctoral-level students, asking to schedule a 10-min in-person meeting, 1 week from the date of the e-mail, to discuss I will be on campus next Tuesday, and although I know it is short notice, potential ways the student could learn more about the professor’s re- I was wondering if you might have 10 minutes when you would be willing search. E-mails were sent from either the firstname.lastname@example.org or to meet with me to briefly talk about your work. email@example.com e-mail account. E-mail accounts were specifi- Thank you in advance for your consideration. cally not affiliated with an academic institution (e.g., Rice University) in order to avoid the possibility that professors’ knowledge about and Sincerely, attitudes toward a particular institution would influence their responses. The Mail Merge function in Microsoft Office Word 2007 was used to [student’s full name] send out e-mails in a timely manner. All e-mails were sent on a Monday Receptiveness was coded using a behaviorally anchored rating morning between 10:00 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. Central Time. Before the scale (BARS; Schwab, Heneman, & DeCotiis, 1975) ranging from 0 proposed meeting day, an e-mail was sent to all participants who had (nonresponse)to9(agree to meet, very positive tone). Two indepen- agreed to meet with the prospective student, canceling the meeting as dent coders (female undergraduate research assistants, approximately soon as possible and apologizing for any inconvenience. To manipulate gender, we signed the e-mail either Jessica McMann 18–22 years old), who were blind to the conditions, were given a or John McMann. In the no-individuation condition, participants detailed description of the BARS and what types of responses fell into simply received a request for a 10-min meeting 1 week from the date each rating (see Table 1). The coders pilot-rated 128 responses in two Table 1 Receptiveness BARS for Professor E-mail Responses to Student Meeting Requests Rating Meaning Example(s) 0 Nonresponse No e-mail response from participant. 1 No, negative undertones The participant questions or asks for credentials in a negative way or directs the student to look at the department or lab website. 2 No, neutral The participant says no to the meeting and does not provide a reason for being unable to meet. 3 No, due to constraints outside of one’s control The participant is unable to meet due to being out of town or not taking students. Does not provide alternatives or rescheduling. 4 No, other people are available though The participant cannot meet but provides a specific referral (e.g. by CC’ing another faculty member or providing contact information) or sets up a meeting with a lab member. 5 No, but offers other means of communication The participant cannot meet but offers to do a phone or Skype meeting or continued correspondence via e-mail. 6 Condition yes, noncommittal and/or requests more information The participant requests a curriculum vitae (CV) and will set up a meeting if interests align. Or the participant does not commit to a specific response but asks for more information or a CV. 7 Yes The participant agrees to the meeting but does not request additional information or a CV. Or the participant cannot meet at the requested time but offers to reschedule or help. 8 Yes, positive undertones The participant agrees to meet and requests a CV or additional information or is willing to go out of the way to meet. 9 Yes, very positive The participant agrees to meet and offers an extended meeting (e.g., lunch); additional related opportunities (e.g., sit in at a lecture or seminar); or a meeting with other admissions staff, faculty, and/or lab members. Note. BARS behaviorally anchored rating scale. This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. Content may be shared at no cost, but any requests to reuse this content in part or whole must go through the American Psychological Association. 16 YOUNG, FA-KAJI, CHENG, BEIER, AND HEBL Table 2 hypothesized, there was a marginally significant main effect of pro- Professor Receptiveness to Student Meeting Requests by Study fessor gender, F(1, 1749) 3.69, p .055, .002, because Condition compared to female professors, male professors tended to send more receptive responses. With respect to individuation, there was not a Student and goal types Individuated Nonindividuated Total significant interaction with prospective student gender (p .14) or a significant main effect (p .63), failing to support Hypothesis 2. Female student However, there was a marginally significant interaction between Communal 4.11 (3.18) 4.32 (3.21) 4.21 (3.19) Agentic 4.10 (3.38) 4.34 (3.20) 4.22 (3.29) prospective student gender and goal type, F(1, 1749) 3.73, p Total 4.10 (3.28) 4.33 (3.20) 4.22 (3.24) 2 .054, .002. Male prospective students received less receptive Male student responses when they mentioned a communal goal than when they Communal 3.56 (3.09) 3.64 (3.31) 3.60 (3.20) mentioned an agentic goal; by contrast, female prospective stu- Agentic 3.90 (3.23) 3.89 (3.15) 3.90 (3.18) Total 3.72 (3.16) 3.77 (3.23) 3.76 (3.19) dents received responses similar in receptiveness when mentioning an agentic or communal goal. These results partially support Hy- Note. Data are means of the Receptiveness BARS (Table 1), with standard pothesis 3. Furthermore, it is interesting that there was a margin- deviations in parentheses. ally significant three-way interaction between prospective student gender, goal type, and professor gender, F(1, 1749) 3.71, p rounds, then met with the principal investigator to reconcile mis- 2 .054, .002. Female professors, in particular, were found to matches and refine the BARS rating scale. The two-way, random, send male prospective students differing responses based on their single-measure intraclass correlation for consistency was .977, and the goal type, such that male students with communal goals were sent ratings from the two coders were averaged to get the final receptive- less receptive responses than were male students with agentic goals ness rating. (see Figure 1). Results Discussion To examine the hypotheses, we ran a factorial analysis of variance Our results reveal that professors’ receptiveness toward meeting (ANOVA) on receptiveness with prospective student gender, individ- with a prospective student is dependent upon different combina- uation, and goal type as independent variables (see Table 2 for tions of the independent variables of interest. Overall, female condition means and Table 3 for ANOVA table). Professor gender prospective students received more receptive responses compared was included as a quasi-independent variable. Of the professors who to male prospective students, inconsistent with previous findings responded to the student e-mails, 78% were male, 72% were White, that indicated that male students tend to receive more favorable 67% were full professors, 21% were associate professors, 11% were responses than do female (Milkman et al., 2012). One potential assistant professors, and 71% were in public universities. In compar- explanation for this finding may derive from the fact that women ison, of the professors who did not respond, 75% were male, 69% are a minority in STEM fields (Snyder, de Brey, & Dillow, 2018). were White, 65% were full professors, 22% were associate professors, Thus, when female students show interest in pursuing a profession 12% were assistant professors, and 68% were in public universities. in a STEM field, they may be given more attention than male Across all categories, the demographic data of the professors who did students are due to this prominent demographic disparity. In recent and did not respond were very similar. years, there has also been a proliferation of programs that promote There was a main effect of prospective student gender, F(1, the presence of women in STEM fields, such as U.S. government’s 1749) 8.01, p .005, .005; however, it was in the opposite Women and Minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and direction from that predicted. Professors tended to send more recep- Mathematics Fields (WAMS) program; the presence of these types tive responses to female prospective students than to male prospective of programs may indirectly lead to more favorable responses students. As a result, Hypothesis 1 was not supported. Although not toward women in STEM settings. Some participants who were Table 3 Factorial Analysis of Variance of Professor Receptiveness by Student Gender, Individuation, Goal Type, and Professor Gender Source df F p Student gender 1 8.01 .005 .005 Individuation 1 .23 .001 .629 Goal type 1 2.49 .001 .115 Professor gender 1 3.69 .002 .055 Student Gender Individuation 1 2.23 .001 .135 Student Gender Goal Type 1 3.73 .022 .054 Student Gender Professor Gender 1 .22 .001 .638 Individuation Goal Type 1 .03 .001 .874 Individuation Professor Gender 1 .05 .001 .831 Goal Type Professor Gender 1 1.54 .001 .215 Student Gender Individuation Goal Type 1 .08 .001 .778 Student Gender Individuation Professor Gender 1 2.51 .001 .113 Student Gender Goal Type Professor Gender 1 3.71 .002 .054 Individuation Goal Type Professor Gender 1 .06 .001 .806 Student Gender Individuation Goal Type Professor Gender 1 .35 .001 .552 Error 1,749 Total 1,765 This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. Content may be shared at no cost, but any requests to reuse this content in part or whole must go through the American Psychological Association. ANSWERING PROSPECTIVE STUDENT E-MAILS 17 Female Professor Male Professor 4.5 4.5 3.5 3.5 Agentic 2.5 2.5 Communal 1.5 1.5 0.5 0.5 Male Female Male Female Prospective Student Gender Prospective Student Gender Figure 1. Interactive effect of prospective student gender, goal type, and professor gender on professor receptiveness in their e-mail responses to student meeting requests. Receptiveness was rated using a behaviorally anchored rating scale, from 0 (nonresponse)to9(yes, very positive). Female professors, in particular, were found to send male prospective students responses differing in receptiveness based on their goal type (agentic or communal). Error bars represent standard error of the means. excluded from the analyses also indicated familiarity with the fields, such as STEM, as female participation increases. However, Milkman and colleagues (2012) study; data collection for that it is also clear that some STEM fields are more gender-balanced particular study was conducted in April 2010, so STEM faculty had than others are (e.g., biology, chemistry, and mathematics are more a few years of potential exposure to the results and the opportunity balanced than computer science, engineering, and physics are; to adjust any biased behaviors prior to the data collection of this Cheryan, Ziegler, Montoya, & Jiang, 2017). Meyer and colleagues study in 2012. (2015) proposed that women are underrepresented in fields (not Another possible explanation for these findings may be based on just STEM) where it is believed that “brilliance” is required for contact theory (Allport, 1954; Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006), which success, suggesting that although women can be perceived as states that increased exposure helps people hold more positive competent, they may not be perceived as possessing the raw ability regard toward outgroup members. Many STEM faculty have not needed for some fields. Future research should attempt to clarify often had a female mentee before; however, the list of participants this distinction within STEM fields and examine how our study we used for this study was obtained through a STEM career may play out differently in fields where women are rarely seen as conference for senior female graduate students and postdoctoral capable of succeeding. researchers. That means that every participant in our study had at Second, the lack of findings with respect to individuation gen- least one female advisee and was supportive enough to write a erates the question of how individuating information can best be letter of recommendation for the person to attend a career confer- used to remediate potential discrimination. Our findings may have ence. Contact theory (Allport, 1954; Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006) been due to the unpredicted receptiveness toward female prospec- would suggest that these professors may have gained invaluable tive students compared to male prospective students, for the po- contact experience and might not show the typical gender bias. As tential reasons stated earlier; as a result, the individuating infor- STEM professors gain exposure to more female students and have mation may not have provided female students with much positive experiences with these students, stereotypical beliefs that additional benefit. In addition, the specific individuating informa- women do not belong in STEM may disappear and even reverse as tion provided (i.e., research experience) may not have been espe- these professors make an effort to support women in STEM. cially salient in this particular context. For example, professors These results highlight a number of theoretical implications. may expect students to have research experience if they claim to be First, these findings may compel people to reconsider the stereo- interested in graduate school. To examine this potential explana- types surrounding women in STEM. Across all fields, women now tion, we conducted a post hoc analysis where we asked 18 partic- earn more bachelor’s and advanced degrees than do men (National ipants to read through the e-mails used in this study and indicate Center for Education Statistics, 2016), and in recent public opinion the extent to which they found them to contain individuating, polls, men and women were rated similarly on characteristics such agentic, and communal qualities as rated on a 7-point Likert scale as intelligence and capacity for innovation (Pew Research Center, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree)to7(strongly agree). Prior to 2015). It is possible that these facts and attitudes surrounding the rating, the participants were given definitions of individuation, competence of women are transferring over to male-dominated agency, and communion. The results revealed that participants This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. Content may be shared at no cost, but any requests to reuse this content in part or whole must go through the American Psychological Association. Average Receptiveness Average Receptiveness 18 YOUNG, FA-KAJI, CHENG, BEIER, AND HEBL rated the individuation, agentic goal e-mail correctly (i.e., greater Practical Implications than an average score of 4 on the appropriate qualities). However, As previously noted, it is possible that having and sponsoring ratings did not clearly distinguish either the no-individuation, female mentees previously may have skewed our sample’s re- agentic goal e-mail or the individuation, communal e-mail as sponses to be more receptive toward the female students’ e-mails. agentic or communal, and the no-individuation e-mails were actu- This suggests that encouraging STEM professors to mentor under- ally rated as individuated. Based on these mixed results, it is clear represented groups, such as women, may help improve stereotyp- that both the individuation and goal-type variables could have been ical beliefs about these groups and further increase their partici- more strongly manipulated. pation in STEM. According to contact theory (Allport, 1954; A stronger manipulation for individuation might include more Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006), as professors mentor more underrepre- details about the type of senior thesis or research work the student sented groups, their potential biases toward these groups will completed or a different kind of individuating information unrelated hopefully shift in a positive manner as the mentees individuate to research experience (e.g., personality or other extracurricular ac- themselves from their stereotypes. Then as professors’ biases shift, tivities). Prior work has demonstrated that providing different types of they may be more likely to mentor more underrepresented indi- individuating information can have differential effects, such as if the viduals. We are not encouraging the establishment of quotas for information is stereotype-consistent or stereotype-inconsistent (King, students within departments, because these requirements often Shapiro, Hebl, Singletary, & Turner, 2006), but there has been a lack encounter backlash (e.g., Leibbrandt, Wang, & Foo, 2018); rather, of research addressing how the domain of the individuating informa- we are encouraging departments to establish cultures in which tion (i.e., related to the targeted content area or not) may impact professors are aware of their own potential biases and make a people’s perceptions. Future research could delve into examining concerted effort to combat them. One way that universities can different characteristics of individuating information (e.g., content, create this type of culture is by providing evidence-based diversity timing, delivery) and how these may influence others’ perceptions of training (see Bezrukova, Spell, Perry, & Jehn, 2016, for a review) stigmatized individuals. for professors to help facilitate their mentoring relationships with Although goal type could have been manipulated more clearly, the women and other underrepresented minorities. This training can results still demonstrated partial support for our goal-type hypothesis, also demonstrate to professors the importance of creating a sup- highlighting a potentially understudied area of gender stereotypes. As portive and inclusive work environment, rather than a competitive predicted, male prospective students received less receptive responses and hostile one—not just for their students but for their colleagues, too. when they mentioned a communal goal than when they mentioned an agentic goal; however, female prospective students received responses similar in receptiveness, regardless of goal type. This finding high- Limitations and Future Directions lights how, although society may be adjusting to seeing women in Although this study provides some interesting results, there were a more agentic roles, expectations for men may remain overly prescrip- few limitations. As previously mentioned, the participants in this tive (Heilman, 2012). Supporting women in male-dominated fields, study were professors who have had female graduate students or such as STEM, does not mean simply becoming more receptive postdoctoral researchers. If these professors differ from the general toward female students and junior faculty; it also means addressing population of STEM professors in some meaningful way (e.g., their unhealthy cultures and breaking down stereotypical beliefs for both personal commitment to increasing the representation of women in women and men. Future research should push to better understand STEM fields), this may have skewed our results regarding professors’ how the stereotypic beliefs surrounding men may hinder true gender receptiveness toward female prospective students. In addition, the equality and how to remediate the discrimination that men may face sample was restricted to academic programs classified as STEM by when they are seen as acting counterstereotypically (e.g., in a com- the Department of Homeland Security (2012). Although this limita- munal manner). tion was originally implemented for clarity and efficiency purposes It is also interesting that the differing responses based on goal type when sorting through the list of faculty contact information, other for male students was particularly acute for female professors and fields not officially recognized as STEM fields by the U.S. govern- that, in general, male professors gave more receptive responses than ment may have been unnecessarily excluded and thus limited our did female professors. Similar to what Derks and colleagues (2016) potential pool of participants. In an effort to address these limitations, proposed, our findings could be a potential consequence of these future research could sample a more diverse population of higher higher status women’s being in male-dominated careers, because education STEM faculty. The sample could even include professors at women may act in a more masculine manner (e.g., assertive, compet- a global level, rather than just those at U.S. institutions, to examine itive) to fit in and “succeed” in these professions; some studies have how these effects may hold or vary across different countries. The even found that these queen bees further endorse and legitimize the types of fields classified as STEM should also be identified at a gender hierarchy and gender stereotypes (Derks et al., 2016). As a multinational level, so that all possible STEM fields can be sampled result, female professors in STEM may not send overly receptive globally with some sort of consistency. responses to avoid appearing to be communal or feminine, which Follow-up research could also directly examine the mechanisms we could then be tied to perceptions of lower competence. Although these believe may drive the interesting results for this study. Individual findings may seem to reinforce some version of the queen bee effect, attitudes may influence how professors respond, such as the extent to it is important to keep in mind that this effect is a product of the which someone endorses gender stereotypes, and although we were person and context, not just the person (Derks, Ellemers, van Laar, & not able to examine these types of beliefs in our study, future research De Groot, 2011). Therefore, even though this and previous potential may examine how these may impact how professors perceive and explanations are simply conjectural, they highlight the necessity for respond to prospective students. Researchers can also work to better further research examining the cultures of male-dominated fields— understand professor motivations in STEM—such as whether female and the impact such cultures have on the individuals within these responses are driven by the queen bee effect—as well as the factors that might predict who is driven by these different motivations (e.g., fields. This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. Content may be shared at no cost, but any requests to reuse this content in part or whole must go through the American Psychological Association. ANSWERING PROSPECTIVE STUDENT E-MAILS 19 gender, minority representation in university or department, organi- sense of belonging; a lack of early experience with STEM fields, zational culture, previous experiences). particularly areas such as computer science, engineering, and physics; Although Milkman and colleagues (2015) found that the represen- and gender differences in self-efficacy. Professors and other leaders in tation of women and minorities in specific disciplines did not reduce STEM can help address all of these factors by changing cultures, discrimination in how professors responded to prospective students, it encouraging educational programs in schools, and mentoring and may be fruitful to examine how representation within specific univer- sponsoring female students. Women in STEM today face better out- sities or departments may impact professors’ values surrounding comes than did women in previous generations, and our findings diversity and inclusion. Derks and colleagues (2011) emphasized the suggest that they may have some allies, at least in the initial stages of importance of culture and context in fostering the queen bee effect, pursuing a potential career in STEM. Nonetheless, it is important to because women in a university or STEM-related department with a avoid becoming complacent and to continue pushing to understand the competitive and hostile culture may feel threatened by other women. roots and mechanisms of persistent disparities. In contrast, a more supportive and inclusive culture may lessen the queen bee effect, because it should allow women (and men) to feel References more comfortable acting communally and helping others (Derks et al., 2016). As a result, although it is often more difficult to gain infor- Allport, G. W. (1954). The nature of prejudice. 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Journal of Revision received September 10, 2018 Personality and Social Psychology, 100, 255–270. http://dx.doi.org/10 .1037/a0021385 Accepted September 10, 2018 This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers. Content may be shared at no cost, but any requests to reuse this content in part or whole must go through the American Psychological Association.
Archives of Scientific Psychology – American Psychological Association
Published: Nov 25, 2019
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