The Stereotype Threat May Explain Women Being Bad at Math Sometimes

Men ogle women and those wandering eyes may have detrimental effects on a woman’s ability to crunch numbers. This fact, by extension, will affect her job performance. A recent study found that an objectifying gaze actually does reduce performance on tests when compared to those who weren’t subjected to such a gaze. The researchers found that being subjected to leering from the opposite sex affected both men and women but it lowered the performance of women even more, whereas the men were generally unaffected.

One explanation put forth by the researchers, which in part could explain why women underperformed on math problems after being objectified, was the stereotype threat.  Being stereotyped is intimidating and negatively affects a person’s performance.  As explained in this news report, “The fear is that when facing a negative stereotype, one’s performance will confirm that the stereotype is true. The anxiety that the stereotype fosters prevents people from doing their best.”

One interesting fact that was brought up in this study was that women (not the men) who were exposed to objectifying gaze afterward wanted to interact with the partner who had inappropriately looked at them. Why? Well, this is not really addressed in the study, but perhaps future studies will be done to understand the irony.

So guys, keep your eyeballs to yourself and let women do their jobs and we’ll all get more work done.

For more information on gender at work, check out this piece titled, “Why We Don’t Like Jane When She Has Dick’s Job.”


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