School & District Management Report Roundup

Scientists Look Like What?

By Sarah D. Sparks — May 01, 2018 2 min read
BRIC ARCHIVE

Pop “scientist” into an image search and you’re likely to see people in goggles and white coats, swirling liquids in Erlenmyer flasks or peering into microscopes. A new study finds the older students get, the more their image of a “scientist” comes into line with that stereotypical view.

But in the past 50 years, girls and boys alike have become more willing to picture women in scientific fields, according to a recent meta-analysis in the journal Child Development. Northwestern University researchers scrutinized the results and drawings from 78 studies of more than 20,000 K-12 students since 1966. In each of those studies, students across grades and states had been asked to draw a scientist at work.

Overall, students drew about 73 percent of scientists as male, but women have gained a lot of ground. In the studies conducted before 1983, only 0.6 percent of all drawings depicted a woman as a scientist. In more recent studies, women are drawn as scientists 28 percent of the time.

“If you ask children to draw a person, they are more likely to draw their own sex than the opposite sex,” said David Miller, a postdoctoral psychologist and the lead author of the study,

Boys overwhelmingly draw scientists as male, while girls tend to envision them as female—at least at first. At age 6, girls drew about 70 percent of their scientists as women. But by the time they were 16, girls depicted scientists as male 75 percent of the time.

“The change toward more men being drawn as children age merely reflects that they are more aware of their society as they get older—that is, more aware that more men than women are scientists,” said co-author Alice Eagley.

In notes accompanying some of the studies, some students specifically mentioned famous scientists such as Marie Curie or Albert Einstein, or popular television personalities such as Bill Nye, the Science Guy as shaping their view of what a scientist looks like. Nonetheless, their views became more stereotypical in concept as they got older. The researchers found, for example, that older students were more likely to depict a scientist inside, in a lab, while younger students were more likely to draw scientists outside. (And it’s worth noting that while the researchers did not dig much into racial differences, 79 percent of all of the drawings depicted scientists as white.)

“I think that result suggests that children learn multiple stereotypes about scientists as they mature, not just stereotypes about gender,” Miller said.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the May 02, 2018 edition of Education Week as Scientists Look Like What?

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Here to Stay – Pandemic Lessons for EdTech in Future Development
What technology is needed in a post pandemic district? Learn how changes in education will impact development of new technologies.
Content provided by AWS

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Wanted: Superintendents to Lead Districts Through the End of a Pandemic
Former superintendents say there are signs when it's time to move on. Their replacements are more likely to be greenhorns, experts say.
4 min read
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner speaks at a news conference at the school district headquarters in Los Angeles on March 13, 2020. Beutner will step down as superintendent after his contract ends in June, he announced Wednesday, April 21, 2021.
Austin Beutner, the superintendent of Los Angeles Unified, will step down after his contract ends in June.
Damian Dovarganes/AP
School & District Management Has COVID-19 Led to a Mass Exodus of Superintendents?
This year has been exhausting for superintendents. Some experts say they're seeing an unusually high number of resignations this spring.
5 min read
Chicago Public Schools Superintendent Janice K. Jackson, right, speaks on Feb. 11, 2021, during a news conference at the William H. Brown Elementary School in Chicago. In-person learning for students in pre-k and cluster programs began Thursday, since the district's agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union was reached.
Chicago Public Schools Superintendent Janice K. Jackson, right, announced earlier this week that she would depart the school system. Jackson, who assumed the superintendency in 2018, has worked for more than 20 years in CPS.
Shafkat Anowar
School & District Management Most Schools Offer at Least Some In-Person Classes, According to Feds' Latest Count
A majority of 4th and 8th graders had at least some in-person schooling by March, but inequities persisted.
3 min read
Image shows empty desks in a classroom.
Chris Ryan/OJO Images
School & District Management Opinion Education Researchers Should Think More About Educators: Notes From AERA
Steve Rees, founder of School Wise Press, posits AERA reflects a community of researchers too focused on what they find interesting.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty