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Kids are starting to picture scientists as women

But gender stereotypes begin to take hold in preteen years

By
11:27am, March 20, 2018
drawing of a female scientists

#WOMENINSCIENCE  On average, 55 percent of girls and 95 percent of boys drew scientists as male in surveys since the 1980s. That's progress compared with the 0.6 percent (all girls) who depicted a female scientist between 1966 and 1977.

Ask a classroom of children to draw a scientist, and you’ll see plenty of Crayola-colored lab coats, goggles and bubbling beakers. That image hasn’t changed much since the 1960s. But the person wearing the lab coat is shifting.

A new analysis finds that more female scientists have appeared in kids’ drawings in recent decades — going from nearly nonexistent in the 1960s to about a third in 2016.

“A lot has changed since the 1960s,” says David Miller, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at Northwestern University who reports the findings with colleagues March 20 in Child Development.

The first of many “draw-a-scientist” studies asked nearly 5,000 children to draw a scientist between 1966 and 1977. “Of those 5,000 drawings,” Miller says, “only 28 …  depicted a female scientist.” That’s just 0.6 percent.

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