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There were 163 high school students from across the state of Alaska who participated in the three-day event, taking tests in math, economics, science, language and literature, art, music and social science last month.

Think women can’t do math? You’re wrong - but new research shows you might not change your mind, even if you get evidence to the contrary.
A study of how men and women perceive each other’s mathematical ability finds that an unconscious bias against women could be skewing hiring decisions and widening the gender gap in math-dependent professions.

The inspiration for the experiment was a 2008 study that analyzed the results of a standardized test of math and verbal abilities taken by 15-year-olds around the world. The results challenged the pernicious stereotype that girls and women are biologically inferior at mathematics.
Although the female test-takers lagged behind males on the math portion of the test, the size of the gap closely tracked the degree of gender inequality in their countries, shrinking to nearly zero in emancipated countries such as Sweden and Norway. That suggests that cultural biases may be the better explanation than biology for the gender gap in math.

To tease out the mechanism of discrimination, two of the authors of that study, joined by an experimental psychologist, designed an experiment to test people’s gender bias about mathematical ability.

Study participants of both sexes were divided into two groups: employers and job candidates. The job was simple: As accurately and quickly as possible, add up sets of two-digit numbers in a four-
minute math sprint. (The researchers did not tell the participants, but it is already known that men and women perform equally well on this task.) The employers were motivated to choose the best people for the job because they would make more money if their hires outperformed the candidates they turned down. At the end of the experiment, the employers took the Implicit Association Test, which is widely used in social psychology research and which measures unconscious bias by forcing you to quickly link various words. If you associate “man” with “math” more quickly than “woman” with “math,” for example, that reveals a possible bias.

The employers had limited information to make their hiring decisions. In some cases, they got nothing but a glance at the candidate; this revealed the candidate’s sex, of course. In other cases, the employers also had the candidate’s appraisal of how many problems he or she expected to be able to complete in the four-minute period. And sometimes, the employers had a chance to change a hiring decision after they were told how the candidates had performed on the math sprint.

Men and women employers alike revealed their prejudice against women for a perceived lack of mathematical ability. When the only information that the employers had was a photograph of the candidate, men were twice as likely to be hired for the simple math job, whether it was a man or woman doing the hiring, the team reports online last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The hiring bias did not disappear when candidates reported their ability on the task, in part because women tended to underestimate their ability while men tended to boast.

The study is “quite important,” says Mahzarin Banaji, a Harvard University psychologist who was not involved in the research, because it shows that people’s prejudice not only affects their judgment of women’s math skills but also impairs their ability to correct it. “The stronger the gender stereotype, the less you are likely to change in favor of women even when you hear about [a woman’s] strong performance on the test.”

Fonte: Washington Post