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More Kids Today Are Drawing Female Scientists

Young scientist looking through a microscope in a laboratory. Young scientist doing some research.

What kids draw says a lot about their views and perceptions of the world — and how they are being shaped.

Fifty years ago, when kids drew pictures of scientists they were almost always men. But now, about a third of these drawings are of women. (Huzzah! It’s about time.) How do we know this? A study published in the journal Child Development evaluated 78 different studies, spanning the years 1966 to 2016 and involving more than 20,000 children.

Today’s kids are drawing more women scientists than ever before. The change is thanks to increased visibility and opportunities for women in science — both in the media and real life — according to lead scientist on the study, David I. Miller.

Miller told CNN that “since 1960 the percentage of women employed as a scientists in the US rose from 28% to 49% in biological science, 8% to 35% in chemistry, and 3% to 11% in physics and astronomy.”

Miller went on to say that entertainment and media have been a positive influence in this regard, saying “children are picking up ideas from what they see.” Whether it’s playing with gender neutral STEM toys, seeing Lego’s women of NASA set, or learning about women who’ve changed history, it all makes a difference even if it doesn’t seem that way at first.

Still, as the kids aged, they reverted back to depicting men as scientists. As the study points out:

During elementary and middle school, the tendency to draw male scientists increased rapidly with age. When children started high school at ages 14-15, they drew more male than female scientists by an average ratio of 4 to 1.

We’ve come a long way — but there’s still long way to go.

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