A new study claims that when children are asked to draw scientists, they will now draw female scientists more often than ever before.
The study looked at five decades of the Draw-A-Scientist studies, revealing how stereotypes linking science with men have deteriorated over time as more women enter the field.
Children Now Draw Female Scientists More Often
When about 5,000 children were asked to draw a scientist in the 1960s and 1970s, elementary school kids almost exclusively drew male scientists. Out of the thousands of drawings, there were only 28 that showed a female scientist, all of which were made by girls. Everyone else, including all the boys, came up with male scientists.
The previous studies piqued the curiosity of Northwestern University PhD candidate in psychology David Miller, who asked the important question of how children's stereotypes for scientists have changed over the past few decades.
The new study, published in the Child Development journal, discovered that in studies completed since 1985, when children were asked to draw a scientist, nearly a third of the drawings, or 28 percent, depicted female scientists.
Data over the past 30 years showed that for 6-year-old children, 83 percent of boys and 70 percent of girls drew scientists of their own gender. However, as kids grew older, both boys and girls drew male scientists more often, with girls switching to drawing male scientists more often than female scientists by 11 years old.
Why Are Scientist Stereotypes Changing?
In a post on the Scientific American blog, Miller said that one of the factors that changed the stereotypes for scientists among children was media. For example, in Highlights for Children, the percentage of images of women and girls used in feature stories of the popular magazine increased from 13 percent in the 1960s to 44 percent in the 2000s.
Miller also cited films such as Hidden Figures as having helped reshape the minds of children on gender norms in science. Hidden Figures told the story of black female mathematicians working for NASA in the 1960s who blazed a trail for women in science.
The change in mindset among children may also be seen as a reflection of the real world, as more women earn science degrees compared to the past. Since the 1960s, the percentage of women who are employed as scientists in the United States increased from 28 percent to 49 percent in biological science, from 8 percent to 35 percent in chemistry, and from 3 percent to 11 percent in physics and astronomy.