Promoting gender equality in research institutions and integration of the gender dimension in research content

EC - FP7

Home page > Project Overview > Background and references

Gender schemas, social stereotypes, and unconscious bias

by Federico Zemborain - published on , updated on

The impact of gender schemas, of negative social stereotypes leading to stereotype threat, of unconscious/implicit gender bias on both the performance of women and the assessment of women’s scientific capabilities and contributions, have been evidenced through a significant number of studies [1].

Most recently, a randomised double-blind study carried out by a research team from Yale University [2] revealed that both male and female STEM faculty from research-intensive universities judged a female student to be less competent and less worthy of being hired than an equally comparative male student, and also offered her a smaller starting salary and less career mentoring, thus exemplifying how gender stereotypes have been internalized by men and women alike and can affect the career opportunities of young female researchers very early on.

A large body of gender studies, in a variety of disciplines, e.g. humanities, social science and cognitive sciences, developed in European countries as well as outside Europe, has indeed documented the underlying mechanisms to such behaviours, the accumulation of disadvantages they lead to, and provide evidence of the existence of indirect discrimination against women in research institutions.

[1] See in particular: V. Valian, « Why so slow ? The advancement of women », Cambridge, Massachusetts : MIT Press (1998); S.J. Spencer, C. Steele and D.Quinn, “Stereotype threat and women’s math performance”, J. Experimental Social Psychology 35, 4-28 (1999) ; P. Huguet and I. Régner, “Counter-stereotypic beliefs in math do not protect school girls from stereotype threat”, J. Experimental Social Psychology 45, 1024-1027 (2009).

[2] Corinne A. Moss-Racusin, John F. Dovidio, Victoria L. Brescoll, Mark J. Graham and Jo Handelsman « Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students » Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Sept. 2012 ; link: