Federal government awards UM $500,000 to research microaggressions

The federal government has awarded the University of Michigan (UM) a grant of over $500,000 to conduct research on the effect of microaggressions on women in the engineering fields.

“This early stage research project will identify specific behavioral manifestations of gender stereotypes—microaggressions—and their cumulative effect on learning, performance, and persistence in introductory engineering course teamwork. Such microaggressions may cause the climate of the team to become less welcoming to women,” an abstract for the grant states.

Since engineering is a male-dominated discipline, the grant writers argue, women are thus inordinately underrepresented and even ignored in their work. In order to measure this “gender gap,” researchers will videotape an unspecified number of “laboratory-based engineering teams” and “develop a reliable microaggressions assessment procedure,” which a series of focus groups will then use to rate the amount of microaggressions in each sample.

“The research will test whether exposure to microaggressions increases perceived stereotype threat and diminishes a sense of belonging in engineering for women compared to men, leading to a gender gap favoring men in the important engineering outcomes of learning, performance, and persistence,” the grant states.

Denise Sekaquaptewa, a psychology professor who will be leading the study, specializes in “stereotyping, prejudice, stereotype threat, and effects of category salience on test performance.”

“One line of research concerns the test performance of solo vs. nonsolo group members. When one’s social category is made salient via solo status (being the only member of one’s social category in a group), academic performance is diminished, especially when the situation is one where the solo is stereotyped as a poor performer,” she writes when explaining her research.

She expects to complete her latest project by August of 2017.

Her study has received $548,459 in funds from the National Science Foundation (NSF) since its inception in 2014. NSF is an independent federal agency established by Congress in 1950 in order to “ promote the progress of science.” With a budget of $7.5 billion annually, NSF funds approximately 24 percent of all federally supported research grants conducted at America’s colleges and universities.

(H/T: The Washington Free Beacon)

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