Sarah J. Gervais
Date of this Version
Riemer, A. R. (2019). The objectification equation: How objectifying experiences add up to subtract women and girls from pursuing STEM. (Doctoral dissertation)
Women have long been underrepresented within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) domains. The present work proposed a novel integration of objectification theory (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997) and the social cognitive theory of agency (Bandura, 1989) to explain why few young women pursue STEM educational goals. A pair of complementary in-lab and ecological momentary assessment studies with a female college student sample (Study 1) and female high school student sample (Study 2) tested the proposed model and examined the relations between objectifying experiences, self-objectification, and goals as they occurred in the moment using a smartphone application. As hypothesized, more experiences of objectification predicted more same day self-objectification for college women and high school girls. Also consistent with hypotheses, college women were less likely to have a STEM educational goal on a day they engaged in high levels of self-objectification, though this effect did not emerge for high school girls. More experiences of objectification and higher levels of self-objectification in a day predicted a greater likelihood of having a feminine goal (i.e., relating to appearance, romantic relationships, or housework) that day for college women, but not high school girls. Inconsistent with hypotheses, daily objectification did not directly predict daily STEM educational goals for either sample. Overall, the current work suggests that experiences of objectification communicate powerful messages that shape women’s and girls’ self-perceptions and what goals young women should pursue. Discussion centers on the possibility of the current work to inform future interventions designed to increase the presence of young women in STEM and other male-dominated domains.
Advisor: Sarah J. Gervais