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Being in the minority : how gender (under)representation influences children’s reasoning about group dynamics Lee, Jessica Jeeyoon


The imbalanced representation of gender in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) disciplines functions as a barrier for women and gender equality. Prior research has identified stereotypes about gender roles, status, ability, and belongingness as some factors that hinder many STEM fields from reaching gender parity. In particular, women are perceived to be less agentic, to pursue lower-status occupations, and to lack brilliance and ability to succeed in STEM. Subsequently, women feel a lower sense of belonging than their male peers as underrepresented members. While these factors perpetuate the consequences of gender imbalance in these domains, there is also evidence of the early acquisition of gender stereotypes surrounding STEM abilities and interests in childhood. Specifically, children around age 6 make judgments about girls’ intellectual abilities and interests that are reflected in many gender-imbalanced domains. As a result, girls are discouraged from pursuing and engaging in STEM from a young age, which ultimately contribute to the pipeline problem. Nonetheless, it remains an open question whether children make similar inferences about other non-stereotyped domains. Therefore, I examine whether the gender (under)representation of groups shapes children’s inferences about the ability, inclusion, and social fit of minority members, even in STEM-neutral contexts. I also investigate whether the gender composition of groups influence how children reason about leadership. The findings suggest that 5-11-year-old children consider gender representation in groups to infer about the minority targets’ sense of belonging, to rectify gender disparity in groups, and to make leadership judgments. Taken together, this provides some initial evidence that children are sensitive to the social consequences of minority (and majority) status in groups.

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