Not actually bad at math or auto repair? Women fear being stereotyped by male service providers

Feb 14, 2011

Women prefer female service providers in situations where they might fall prey to stereotypes about their math and science abilities, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

"One of the most widely held stereotypes in North America is that women's competence and aptitude in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) domains is less than men's," write authors Kyoungmi Lee (Yonsei University, Korea), Hakkyun Kim (Concordia University, Canada), and Kathleen Vohs (University of Minnesota).

In their study, the authors demonstrate that about women's STEM abilities shape women's . In particular, women shun situations in which they fear they will be the brunt of the stereotype, especially those that involve male in transactions that call for STEM abilities.

For example, when women want advice on investments or on buying a car they may wonder if they will receive unfair treatment or become an easy target for manipulation. The authors demonstrated that female consumers who are reminded of their expressed lower intentions to purchase service from firms that advertised themselves with male service providers. This pattern occurred for a tax firm that touted its service with male investment advisors and also in automobile repair and purchases.

"When the threat of being stereotyped is in the air, consumers become anxious when they contemplate transacting with outgroup vs. ingroup service providers if they are reminded of the negative gender stereotype in the STEM domains," the authors write. "A rise in consumer anxiety, in turn, is the very driving force behind women's disinterest in transacting with male service providers or salespersons."

The research also led to an interesting way to reduce the anxiety related to the stereotype: vanilla scent. "In a vanilla-scented environment, the effect of possibly being stereotyped seemingly does not alter female consumers' intentions to transact with firms, even when the firms promoted themselves using male salespersons," the authors write.

Explore further: Local education politics 'far from dead'

More information: Kyoungmi Lee, Hakkyun Kim, and Kathleen Vohs. "Stereotypes Threat in the Marketplace: Consumer Anxiety and Purchase Intentions." Journal of Consumer Research: August 2011. Further information: ejcr.org

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Extended service contracts: When and why do people buy them?

Jun 15, 2009

Consumer experts have long recommended against buying Extended Service Contracts (ESCs) with products, since they are rarely cost effective. A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research examines the reasons why so man ...

Taking care of business shouldn't be just for men

May 22, 2008

Studies reveal that in the dog-eat-dog, look-out-for-No. 1, highly competitive business world, only the aggressive, risk-taking alpha male can expect to succeed as an entrepreneur. That statement may sound sexist, but it ...

Recommended for you

Local education politics 'far from dead'

4 hours ago

Teach for America, known for recruiting teachers, is also setting its sights on capturing school board seats across the nation. Surprisingly, however, political candidates from the program aren't just pushing ...

First grade reading suffers in segregated schools

4 hours ago

A groundbreaking study from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) has found that African-American students in first grade experience smaller gains in reading when they attend segregated schools—but the ...

Why aren't consumers buying remanufactured products?

6 hours ago

Firms looking to increase market share of remanufactured consumer products will have to overcome a big barrier to do so, according to a recent study from the Penn State Smeal College of Business. Findings from faculty members ...

Expecting to teach enhances learning, recall

7 hours ago

People learn better and recall more when given the impression that they will soon have to teach newly acquired material to someone else, suggests new research from Washington University in St. Louis.

Understanding the economics of human trafficking

Jul 28, 2014

Although Europe is one of the strictest regions in the world when it comes to guaranteeing the respect of human rights, the number of people trafficked to or within the EU still amounts to several hundred ...

User comments : 0