Addressing stereotypes

Some groups in society are confronted with discrimination that reduces their employment prospects and their opportunities to engage in innovation activities. Much discrimination relates to “statistical discrimination”, i.e. contexts where stereotypes inform decisions because the other party (as e.g. an employer) does not have information on individuals and so judges an individual’s potential performance based on perceived characteristics of a group (Phelps, 1972; Arrow, 1973). Gender stereotypes, for instance, often render it much harder for women to engage in a research career in STEM. 

Instruments to address discrimination and stereotypes include the following:

(1) Awareness raising activities

Awareness raising activities can be targeted at the general public or at students in schools and universities. The Programme to Support Research Activities of Female Researchers in Japan, mentioned above, promotes research careers in STEM for women in high schools and colleges through promotional materials and events allowing girls to meet female senior staff in research positions.


(2) Role models

Role models are one of the most effective ways to tackle stereotypes. For example, Sweden’s Women Ambassadors programme encouraged voluntary women entrepreneurs to act as “ambassadors” and share their experiences with other women. The ambassadors participated in events and made presentations about their backgrounds and success stories as entrepreneurs to high school, university and vocational training students, career advisors, and women with an immigrant background. Some of the ambassadors later acted as mentors or coaches. Similarly, Ireland’s Going for Growth programme features the contribution of so-called “lead entrepreneurs” – successful women entrepreneurs who help inspire other women who are already owners and/or managers of a business and have been for at least two years. Lead entrepreneurs support these aspiring businesswomen in setting and achieving growth objectives for their businesses in interactive roundtable sessions where everyone can share experiences and thoughts (OECD/EU, 2016).

(3) Mentoring programmes

In Korea, WISET’s Girls Mentoring Program aims to help young women in high school develop their college study plans, with female professors and college students as their mentors. An online mentoring system and cyber community also allow mentees to communicate and conduct online activities with other members. Participants can share their experiences, encouragement and information via small group communities.

Programme to support the research activities of female researchers – Japan


Objective:  Increase the number of women in leading positions in research, particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Target: Women researchers.

Instrument: Funds to research organisations to develop and implement measures aimed at improving the research environment for women researchers; awareness-raising activities in high schools and colleges to encourage women to take up careers in STEM disciplines.

Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology – Korea


Objective: Foster women’s participation in science, engineering and technology research and industry.

Target: Women at different stages in their careers in STEM fields.

Instrument: Grants to support engineering research projects led by female graduate students; support for female researchers returning to R&D activities after a career break (e.g. due to maternity); and mentoring programmes for young women in high school.

Competitive Start Fund for Female Entrepreneurs Programme – Ireland


Objective:  Provide female-led start-ups with critical early-stage funding to reach key commercial and technical milestones and launch new products internationally.

Target: Women entrepreneurs.

Instrument: Equity investment of up to EUR 50 000 for a 10% shareholding in the company for costs of developing a business plan and making progress on key technical and commercial milestones, and non-financial support (counselling from a mentor).


Arrow, K. (1973), “The Theory of Discrimination”, in Orley Ashenfelter and Albert Rees (eds.), Discrimination in Labor Markets, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, pp. 3-33.

Becker, G. (1957), The Economics of Discrimination, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

OECD/EU (2016), Inclusive Business Creation: Good Practice Compendium, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Phelps, E.S. (1972), “The statistical theory of racism and sexism”, American Economic Review, Vol. 62, No. 4, pp. 659-61.