Climate control: the relationship between social identity threat and cues to an identity-safe culture

William Hall, Toni Schmader, Audrey Aday, Michelle Inness, Elizabeth Croft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Social identity threat has been proposed as a key contributor to the underrepresentation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), but little research has sought to pinpoint naturally occurring contextual predictors of identity threat for women already training or working in STEM. The focus of the present research was to examine how cues to an identity-safe culture predict more or less positive interactions between men and women in STEM in ways that may trigger or minimize women's daily experience of social identity threat. Specifically, we examined the role of inclusive organizational policies and/or greater female representation as 2 identity safety cues. In 2 daily diary studies of working engineers' experiences, and in an experiment with undergraduate engineering students, we tested a model whereby cues to identity safety predict lower social identity threat for women in STEM, as mediated by having (or expecting to have) more positive interactions with male (but not female) colleagues. Results across each study and an internal meta-analysis of overall effects revealed that female engineers' actual and anticipated daily experience of social identity threat was lower in organizations perceived to have more gender-inclusive policies (but was not consistently predicted by gender representation). The link between gender-inclusive policies and lower social identity threat was mediated by women having (or expecting to have) more positive conversations with male (and not female) colleagues, and was only found for women and not men. The implications for reducing social identity threat in naturalistic settings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)446-467
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2018


  • Culture
  • Gender
  • Social identity threat
  • Subtle bias
  • Women in STEM

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