Busting Stereotypes


  • To understand assumptions can lead to stereotypes and unfair judgements about individuals and groups
  • To recognize how stereotypes and biases affect our lives


  • Flip chart paper/whiteboard/chalkboard
  • Markers/dry erase markers/chalk
  • Scratch paper
  • Pens/pencils

Prepare Before


Warm Up

Write the word “stereotype” on the flip chart paper, whiteboard, or chalkboard. Ask the participants, “what is a stereotype?” Allow a few participants to answer aloud or give them time to jot down their thoughts. Then, write down a dictionary definition of the word. (For example, Merriam-Webster defines a stereotype as, “to believe unfairly that all people or things with a particular characteristic are the same.”)


Write the words “man” and “woman” side-by-side at the top of the flip chart paper, whiteboard, or chalkboard. Draw a vertical line between the two words to create a two-column chart. Ask the participants to each set up a piece of writing paper in the same way. Then ask them to each write words or phrases that describe the qualities or characteristics of a man under the word man” and words or phrases that describe a woman under the word woman”.

To get the ball rolling, you might ask the group to share a few ideas with their peers. Following are some typical responses: 

  • Man: active, sports-lover, short hair, hard working, truck driver, breadwinner, strong
  • Woman: loving, nurse, shop, likes flowers, cries easily, long hair

Give the group a few minutes to compile their lists.

Next, arrange participants into small groups and ask them to share their lists with group members. Then give each group two minutes to brainstorm additional words or phrases describing a man, and two minutes to brainstorm additional words or phrases describing a woman.

Bring the groups together to create a class list of words and phrases about men and women. Write them on the flip chart paper, whiteboard, or chalkboard. as the participants share them.


Using the words and phrases that the participants shared, facilitate a discussion with the following reflection questions:

  • Are you happy with the lists you have created?
  • Do you see any changes you would like to make to them?
  • Are there terms that do not belong under the heading they’re under?
  • Are there terms that might fit under both headings?
  • Is it fair to say that all men _________ or that all women ________?

Explain the concept of “stereotype threat” and how that can be a problem. Stereotype threat can get activated in situations where people are or feel themselves to be at risk of conforming to stereotypes about their social group. Stereotype threat has been shown to reduce the performance of individuals who belong to negatively stereotyped groups. For example, women taking a math test will perform worse if they are reminded that women are not expected to do well in math. This happens only because a negative stereotype (poor math performance) was presented about a group they belong to (women) — not because the stereotype is at all true. Presenting a negative stereotype makes group members anxious, which makes it hard to perform at one’s maximum potential. Importantly, the individual does not need to subscribe to the stereotype for stereotype threat to take over.


Ask participants to share their responses to the following questions in small groups:

  • Can you think of a time when your impression of someone proved to be incorrect? What happened?
  • Can you think of a time when someone got the wrong impression of you? What happened? How did you feel?


As a full group, discuss what the participants learned in this lesson and what parts stood out or resonated most.