Mindfulness as a Potential Buffer of Stereotype Threat for Underrepresented Minority Females in STEM

Sarah Michelle Sorenson, Fordham University


Women comprise nearly half of the workforce, but are underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) occupations with women of color largely invisible across all levels of education in STEM. One likely reason for this is stereotype threat, a predicament whereby people feel at risk of conforming to stereotypes about their social group. Individuals who experience stereotype threat show performance decrements across a range of tasks, because their cognitive (working-memory) resources are directed toward overcoming the negative stereotype rather than toward completion of the task. To address a gap in the literature about the experiences of underrepresented minority women in STEM, this study examined whether a brief mindfulness intervention would counteract the effects of stereotype threat on underrepresented minority women’s math performance, as mindfulness can alleviate working-memory load. Participants were recruited via Qualtrics, randomly assigned into treatment or control groups, and completed a multi-step virtual study. They completed a math test, then either listened to a brief mindfulness audio recording or moved straight into the second math test, depending on their group. Participants in the stereotype threat group were primed for stereotype threat, and then completed the second math test. Participants in the control group completed the second math test without being primed. All participants then completed the Toronto Mindfulness Scale (TMS) to assess whether the mindfulness task was successful. The results were not statistically significant, likely due to the virtual nature of the study. However, the implications for practice, as well as gender and racial equality are invaluable.

Subject Area

Womens studies|Educational psychology|Social psychology|Behavioral psychology

Recommended Citation

Sorenson, Sarah Michelle, "Mindfulness as a Potential Buffer of Stereotype Threat for Underrepresented Minority Females in STEM" (2022). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI29206884.