Children's Perceptions of Who Can Be a Scientist Are Changing


Now a new meta-analysis, published in the journal Child Development, looked at 78 studies of USA children - some completed as recently as 2017 - to see how things have changed.

The new study marks the first time "Draw-A-Scientist" literature has been systematically reviewed. But out of the 5,000 children, just 28 - less than 1% - drew a woman. By the 2010s, about one in three drawings portrayed a female scientist.

Nearly all of the children's drawings showed men working with lab equipment, and in numerous drawings the men had facial hair and wore in a lab coat and glasses. The recent studies show that both girls and boys drew female scientists more often, although girls overall drew female scientists much more often than boys.

Now, female scientists are being depicted more than ever, Northwestern researchers have said. But although stereotypes that associate men with science seem to have weakened over time, most U.S. children still see science as a male profession. Girls are significantly more likely than boys to draw female scientists - 42% of girls' drawings depicted female scientists, compared to just 5% of boys' drawings - but there was growth among both genders, Miller says, which points to the impact of better gender representation in the sciences.

The researchers also looked at how stereotypes about scientists change as kids grow up.

The report was based on "Draw-A-Scientist" studies from the past five decades.

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This shift in perception is probably the result of an increasing number of women becoming scientists, and mass media - such as television shows and children's magazines - featuring female scientists more often, says lead author David Miller, a psychology researcher at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. "However, the tendency to draw male scientists did increase strongly during elementary school and middle school".

By 2015, women earned 48 percent of all chemistry degrees.

In 1966, women earned about 20 percent of chemistry bachelor degrees in the United States.

Last year, 57 percent of girls said they had not considered a STEM career, according to the museum.

"It's not directly asking children to say, 'Is science for men or is it for women?'" Miller says. Miller and his colleagues found that kids younger than six drew male and female scientists in nearly equal measure. "It's more getting at these associations that children have".