The girls in the group with the women only images not only scored better than the girls who had the other tests, but scored better than the boys who had taken part in the study. The group who had the male only images found the usual gaps in test scores between girls and boys.
This phenomenon of a predominant appearance of male scientist images in textbooks and how they can adversely affect ethnic minorities as well as females was first described by researchers at Stanford University in California in the mid-1990s. It is known among researchers in social psychology and education as “stereotype threat.” Basically the test-taker feels threatened when faced with a reminder of a stereotype that reflects negatively on his or her abilities in the subject matter at hand.
The study concludes, “Research should investigate the influence of diverse role models presented in textbooks as a way of improving performance of multiple stereotyped groups, not just women.” They went on to say, “Although eliminating gender bias in textbooks will most likely not eradicate the gender gap in science interest and achievement, it will begin to chip away at an ever crumbling foundation.”
Though more research needs to be done this study does go a long way in showing why showing girls images of women working in fields that are stereotypically dominated by men is so vital. It is also why campaigns such as “I Look Like An Engineer” and ##DistractinglySexy have created such viral firestorms in recent months.
It is this theory that is also the very foundation in which SheHeroes has been built.