Despite a plethora of initiatives and a surge of research activity, women remain under-represented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines (National Science Foundation 2017). While much research has focused on ways to recruit women into these disciplines, less work has explored the strategies women use to navigate these contexts once they have entered. In a set of two experimental studies, we investigate women’s potential response strategies to the well-documented tension between female and STEM attributes in terms of individual self-presentation. In Study 1 (N
= 240), we examine whether female STEM professionals have different impression goals when introducing themselves to professional peers versus a group of other women. In Study 2 (N
= 169), we extend our inquiry to include self-presentation behavior as well as intentions. Across studies, we find that female STEM professionals hold different impression goals based on the audience with whom and context in which they expect to interact. These intentions align with actual self-introduction behavior, as observed in written self-introductions. Tuning one’s self-presentation, however, leads participants to feel less authentic. This work highlights one way women in male-dominated STEM contexts may navigate and strategically communicate their female and STEM identities to others, as well as the personal implications of doing so.
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