When asked to draw a scientist, school-age kids in the United States are increasingly sketching women. That’s the main conclusion of a new study that compiled information about 20,860 pictures drawn by students age 5 to 18 over 5 decades.
In the 1960s and 1970s, less than 1% of students depicted scientists as female. But the percentage of women in the “draw a scientist” sketches—like the one pictured, drawn by a third grade girl in San Antonio, Texas—has increased over time, reaching an estimated 34% by 2016. And the numbers are even more stark when looking at drawings penned by girls: About 1% drew women in the first 2 decades—but in the past decade more than half have drawn women, researchers report in Child Development.
The trend in how children perceive scientists parallels an uptick in the actual number of female scientists. Over roughly the same time period—from 1960 to 2013—the percentage of women holding science jobs rose from 28% to 49% in biological science, from 8% to 35% in chemistry, and from 3% to 11% in physics and astronomy.
Most scientists are still men, but as time goes on that’s changing—even in the imaginations of children.