When Asked to Draw a Scientist, More Children Depict Women Than Ever Before

When asked to draw a picture of a scientist, kids are drawing women more frequently than ever before, “Science” reports. The 50-year study has been asking children to “draw a scientist” since the 1970s. Back then, the vast majority — 99 percent — of girls, as well as boys, drew a picture of a male scientist. But by 2016, one-third of children drew female scientists — the highest proportion ever.

This suggests that media representation of traditionally male-dominated jobs, particularly in STEM –science, technology, engineering and medicine — fields, is closer to gender parity than it has ever been.

The nature versus nurture debate has been going strong — in a gender context, at least — since the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and ’70s. Many new-wave sociologists, psychologists and activists challenged the traditional wisdom that men and women are biologically different — not just anatomically, but also mentally and emotionally — processing information and solving problems in sometimes fundamentally different ways.

Rather than accepting that men’s brains were better wired for math and science, these nurture advocates maintained that the way we raise children — through parental, educational and societal expectations — caused men to become engineers and women to become nurses, teachers or homemakers.

t’s become ever more clear that girls receive subtle messages about what “girls are good at,” which influences their interest in math and science, as well as their identity as a thinker and learner.

While the possibility of some lingering biological differences has not been completely ruled out, social factors related to gender expectations have evidently had a huge influence on children’s career paths. As universities, public schools, science advocacy organizations — and even Hollywood – have conscientiously worked to improve gender representation in the sciences, it seems that these efforts are finally having their intended effect.

And here’s why that matters. A new generation of kids is growing up without even considering whether biological sex is relevant to working in science. So while our current generation may be conscious of gender parity in outreach programs and mass media, these children may well grow up not having to think about any of that.

Instead, they’ll take it for granted that sex is irrelevant — and therefore, as a self-fulfilling prophecy, it will be. The significant barriers that still exist for women in science may start to disappear as more old white men retire and a new, more diverse work force rises up to replace them.

In the absence of constraining societal messages about girls and boys, gender parity could occur naturally, with each child choosing their own path and reaching their own full potential. The idea that science and math is for boys and child-rearing is for girls will seem, at best, quaint.

Our society is actually managing to learn from its mistakes. How about that?

Photo credit: Arkadiusz77

62 comments

Marie W
Marie W1 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Camilla V
Camilla Vaga6 months ago

cool

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Karen Swenson
Karen Swenson6 months ago

@Megan S--Three Countries have the highest proportion of female Scientists and engineers, higher than Males. Lithuania (58%) Bulgaria (54%) Latvia (52%)--What happened to the Biology factor there? We do know, and there is no doubt about it, that the greater the diversity, the better the Science, and we all benefit from the participation of Women in Science. I think Science is one of the more important issues in the World today.

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Megan S
Megan S6 months ago

men and women both have equal capability when it comes to the sciences (this is shown by extremely similar averages in children's school grades) but when it comes to selecting which career to follow men are generally more attracted to the study of 'things' and women are generally more attracted to the study of 'people'. The differences in the number of scientists of each gender is as a result of free choice and equal opportunity - so biology becomes the only limiting factor (as it should be) Of course these biological inclinations are very slight and women are equally capable of achieving great things - but across large populations the difference in preference becomes more obvious. source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-health/11401344/STEM-Is-there-any-science-behind-the-lack-of-women-in-science.html

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Megan S
Megan S6 months ago

there's really more important issues in the world than this

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Margie FOURIE
Margie FOURIE7 months ago

I have always thought of women as scientists.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O7 months ago

good

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O7 months ago

th

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O7 months ago

nice

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O7 months ago

th

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