Making gender matter: The role of gender-based expectancies and gender identification on women's and men's math performance in Sweden

This experiment investigated math performance in Sweden, a country that emphasizes gender equality. According to a recent analysis by the World Economic Forum, the gaps between men and women in Sweden on economic, political, education, and health variables are the smallest in the world. Swedish male and female undergraduate math and chemistry majors completed a difficult math test that they were told would allow comparison of their scores to those of other students to assess their math ability. Half the students were told that there were typically no differences in test performance based on gender (no stereotype threat), whereas the other half were told that the math ability of men versus women would be compared using student performance to reflect the math ability of each gender (stereotype threat). In addition, only students in the latter condition were asked to indicate their gender before taking the test. Results showed that females and males performed similarly in the absence of stereotype threat. Under stereotype threat, however, only women who were not strongly identified with their gender showed performance decrements. These data contrast with previous demonstrations that show how stereotype threat effects individuals who highly identify with a threatened identity, and they suggest that a strong gender identity in a culture emphasizing gender equality might buffer identified women against stereotype threat.

Eriksson, K., & Lindholm, T. (2007). Making gender matter: The role of gender-based expectancies and gender identification on women's and men's math performance in Sweden. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 48, 329-338.

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