Strength in numbers? Women and mathematics

  • Ann Beaton
  • Francine Tougas
  • Natalie Rinfret
  • Nathalie Huard
  • Marie-Noëlle Delisle


Two studies were conducted to test the link between numerical distinctiveness, stereotype threat and mathematical performance among women. In the first study, stereotype threat was measured with a stereotype activation task. Women in a solo, non-solo or control condition completed word fragments and a mathematical activity. Solo women, rather than their non-solo counterparts showed mathematical performance deficits. Evidence did not support the mediating role of stereotype activation. In the second study, stereotype anxiety was assessed. According to analyses, solo women reported greater stereotype-related anxiety than non-solo women. A link between stereotype anxiety and mathematical performance deficits was also uncovered. Finally, mathematical underperformance was associated with greater interest in feminine activities. Strategies to buffer the effects of stereotype threat are discussed.

Key words

Gender stereotypes Stereotype threat Women and mathematics 


Deux études ont été menées dans le but d’évaluer le lien entre la force numérique, la menace du stéréotype et le rendement à une tâche de mathématiques chez les femmes. Dans la première étude, la menace du stéréotype a été mesurée en fonction d’une tâche d’activation des stéréotypes. Les femmes dans les conditions “solo”, “non-solo” et contrôle ont complété des mots et une tâche de mathématiques. En comparaison aux femmes des autres groupes, celles dans la condition “solo” ont moins bien réussi la tâche en mathématiques. L’hypothèse de l’effet médiateur de la menace du stéréotype n’a pas été appuyée. Dans la deuxième étude, l’anxiété associée au stéréotype a été évaluée. Selon les analyses, les femmes dans la condition “solo” ont éprouvé davantage d’anxiété associée au stéréotype que celles assignées à la condition “non-solo”. Un lien a été obtenu entre l’anxiété associée au stéréotype et la contre-performance à la tâche de mathématiques. Enfin, la contre-performance en mathématiques est associée à l’intérêt dirigé vers des activités féminines. Les stratégies visant à réduire les effets de la menace du stéréotype sont discutées.


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Copyright information

© Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada, Lisbon, Portugal/ Springer Netherlands 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ann Beaton
    • 1
  • Francine Tougas
    • 2
  • Natalie Rinfret
    • 3
  • Nathalie Huard
    • 4
  • Marie-Noëlle Delisle
    • 5
  1. 1.School of psychologyUniversité de MonctonMonctonCanada
  2. 2.School of PsychologyUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  3. 3.Département de l’enseignement et de la rechercheÉcole nationale d’administration publiqueQuébecCanada
  4. 4.M.A.Ps. École de psychologieUniversité de MonctonMonctonCanada
  5. 5.École de psychologieUniversité LavalSte-Foy

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