The Role of Gender Identity Salience and Self-Esteem in Math Discounting Among Women STEM Majors
Authors:Thorony Chy, Yesenia Galvez, Dalia Garcia, Briseida Martinez, Guillermina Muro, Dana Peralta, Sara Reinosa, Lynette Romero, Marissa Salazar, Lilian Saldana, Lilian Saldana, Tasha Straszewski, Delisa Young
Mentor:Bettina Casad, Associate Professor of Psychology, California State Polytechnic University Pomona
One coping strategy used by stigmatized groups experiencing evaluative threat is to disengage from the domain to protect self-esteem (Schmader et al., 2000), such as women disengaging from math to contend with the negative effects of stereotype threat (Spencer et al., 1999). Discounting, or viewing feedback as biased and underestimating competence, is one form of disengagement (Morin & Dumas, 2012). Other research finds that gender identification increases women’s vulnerability to sexism (Eliezer et al., 2010). Thus we hypothesized that self-esteem would interact with gender identity to predict women’s tendency to discount the math domain. Specifically, gender identified women are susceptible to discounting, but high self-esteem would buffer the need to discount the math domain.
Undergraduate women (N = 210) majoring in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) completed an online questionnaire that assessed key measures including self-esteem, gender salience, and math discounting.
There was a significant interaction between self-esteem and gender identity salience on math discounting ΔR² = .041, F(3, 206) = 4.183, p = .007. Simple slope analyses further showed that among women with higher gender salience, higher self-esteem predicted lower levels of math discounting, than lower self-esteem b = -1.66, p = .004. Among women with lower gender salience, higher self-esteem predicted higher levels of math discounting, than lower self-esteem b = -1.20, p = .005.
The results indicate higher self-esteem buffered the need to discount among women with higher gender salience. However, among women with lower gender salience, self-esteem was not a buffer. Perhaps women who are not highly gender-identified care less about proving math stereotypes incorrect and therefore discount the math domain as an unimportant part of the self. Research should further explore the interaction between gender identity and self-esteem on math discounting and link discounting to actual math performance.