Ask your child to draw a scientist and take note: did they draw a man or a woman? This gesture that may seem simple has been studied by Northwestern University since the 1960s to measure how much do children associate science to women and how much gender stereotypes could influence young ones.

On its first phase, between 1966 and 1977, only 1% of kids drew a woman as a scientist. The good news is that, for the first time since the beginning of the project, out of a total of 50 years of drawing and 20 thousand kids evaluated, the proportion of female scientists drawn has increased. From 1985 until 2016, the number rose to 28%. Although still below 50%, it is a noticeable improvement.

According to David Miller, main author of the study, this change in stereotypes can encourage girls to develop more interest in science. The study also shows that stereotypes become stronger in kids as they get older. Up until the age of 5, kids draw men and women scientists with greater ease, but in elementary and middle schools there are more male scientists drawn.

Stimulating scientific thinking

Physicians, biologists, teachers… scientists are everywhere, and it is important that we encourage both girls and boys to think like scientists. In other words, to solve problems in a more efficient way. Encouraging our children, whatever its gender is, to get inspiration from these scientists can help them on everyday decision making processes and critical thinking.

How to do it? Encourage girls to:

  • Research about their topics of interest or about the ones they’re curious about.
  • Watch before making decisions and forming opinions
  • Question informations to be sure they make actual sense.
  • Weight the pros and cons of their opinions.
  • Share results with their conclusions.

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