Meet the Stereotypes, Identity, & Belonging Lab (SIBL) at the University of Washington, headed by psychologist Sapna Cheryan.
In the Stereotypes, Identity, & Belonging Lab (SIBL) at the University of Washington, we are interested in understanding how people’s choices and behaviors are shaped by cultural factors, such as stereotypes and social identity. Our lab is primarily concerned with developing and empirically testing theories that inform current social problems, particularly inequality and prejudice, in the hopes of bringing attention to these problems and working towards feasible solutions.
The top item on their news page at the moment is a newspaper piece by Jennifer Walsh on the harm done by stereotypes about scientists, which cites Sapna Cheryan. It starts with Bill Nye on Dancing With the Stars.
Not all scientists wear glasses and bow-ties. Not all of them spend their entire day in the lab. Scientists aren’t all older white men like Nye.
Scientists are mothers and fathers, rockers and rock climbers, some of us have tattoos and pink-dyed hair.
Some scientists are even females and minorities. There is still a gender gap in the sciences, and by focusing on popularizing one white male example of a “scientist” and his beakers we are missing the true diversity of both the sciences and scientists.
In the media, we think of the characters on the “Big Bang Theory” when we think of scientists. These nerds, who are usually the butt of jokes that aren’t even funny, also reinforce these science stereotypes. A bone of contention in the nerd community, where many want to promote science to lay people, but hate that it’s always portrayed based on stereotypes.
A study just this year suggested that that stereotype is what’s holding women back from science, according to GeekWire:
New research out of the University of Washington, which found that women don’t choose careers in computer science because of the “nerd” stereotype in the media.
UW psychologist Sapna Cheryan ran two studies to find out if the lack of women in tech was due to their disinterest in the topic, or other reasons. First, she asked 254 non-computer science college students to describe CSE majors. They were perceived to be “incompatible with the female gender role, such as lacking interpersonal skills and being singularly focused on computers.”
After reading an article about a non-stereotypical computer science major, their interest in the topic increased significantly, as seen in the graph below:
If we want to encourage diversity in the sciences we have to get rid of these old-white-man scientist stereotypes. The portrayal of the scientist as an older white man puts women and minorities at a disadvantage.
This is why “equity feminism” is bullshit. It claims that everything is already fixed, the playing field is already even, the opportunity is already equal. Wrong, wrong, and wrong.