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As girls get older, they become less likely to imagine scientists as women, study finds

By WITW Staff on March 30, 2018

When social scientist David Chalmers asked children from Canada and the United States to draw scientists between the years of 1966 and 1977, only 28 of almost 5,000 drawings depicted a woman as a scientist. Of those 28 drawings of women scientists, all were created by girls. But from the 1980s onward, according to an analysis of five decades of data from 78 different studies, 28 percent of children drew female scientists — a substantial increase from the 0.6 percent recorded in the original study from the ‘60s and ‘70s. According to David Miller from Northwestern University, who helped lead the analysis of drawings from almost 20,000 children, the change in children’s notions of what a scientist looks like reflects the change in perceived gender roles in society.

The impact of ingrained stereotypes on how children perceive what kind of jobs different genders are supposed to perform appears to be quite substantial — a 2008 study found that elementary school children drew 75 percent of teachers as women, 60 percent as veterinarians, but only 33 percent as scientists. Girls, the data show, became more and more likely to draw scientists as men as they grew older. At age 6, Miller found, girls drew women scientists 70 percent of the time. But by age 16, 75 percent of their drawings featured male scientists instead.

“Middle school is a critical period in which they’re learning this gendered information about what is a scientist,” said Miller.

Read the full story at The Atlantic.


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