I am a girl. I study science. Yet why when researchers asked children to draw a scientist did the overwhelming majority draw a man in a white lab coat?
A group of researchers looked into two differing databases that were popular sources for teaching materials, particularly in primary schools. These resources included experiments, demonstrations, assignments, videos and games on astronomy, chemistry, biology, geography, mathematics, physics, engineering and technology.
Within these pictures and videos, it was found that over 75% of the time, men were filling the roles as science professionals with women being depicted just 25% of the time. However, in 2013, the percentage of women in science based professions globally was just 28.4%, which may account for the skew in representation. Conversely, 56.8% of employees in the humanities and arts and 75.9% of the employees in education are women. Why such a large difference?
It has been shown that girls often become less confident in their abilities regarding STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) ,resulting in fewer girls who choose STEM courses and careers. From a young ages, it has been found that girls are often less interested in science and have fewer positive attitudes toward science than boys, perhaps down to the gender stereotype not only found in the resources in the study, but in their daily lives too.
However, in 1960 a mere 27% of biologists were women, and in 2008, this statistic rose to 52.9% showing that the trend of male dominance may be reducing. To increase the number of girls interested in these subjects, the researchers suggest that it is of high importance to create a better visual balance between men and women depicted in resources children use from a young age.
Read the full journal article here.