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Sapna Cheryan is quoted in this Mashable article on why there are gender gaps in science.

Kids are drawing more female scientists than ever before


Imagine asking a classroom full of elementary school students to draw a scientist. Now try to guess how many of them would sketch a female or male scientist.

In the decade that spanned 1966 to 1977, teachers across the country gave 4,800 elementary school students this exact task in what became known as the Draw-A-Scientist study. Then a researcher named David Wade Chambers analyzed the drawings. What he found , in 1983, might not surprise you: Only 28 of the children drew a female scientist — and those students were all girls. That amounted to less than one percent of all students.

Rest assured that as times have changed, so have kids' gender stereotypes. A new study published in Child Development Tuesday analyzed dozens of Draw-A-Scientist studies conducted since Chambers' landmark experiment and found that, on average, 28 percent of participants drew a female scientist in the subsequent studies.

Sapna Cheryan , an associate professor of psychology at the University of Washington not involved in the study, wasn't surprised by Miller's results. The fact that, on average, more than a quarter of students participating in a Draw-A-Scientist study depicted a woman over the past three decades is heartening progress yet still nowhere close to parity, she says. Indeed, while women have made considerable gains in some STEM fields, they remain drastically underrepresented in others, like physics, engineering, and computer science.

Cheryan's own research focuses on why gender gaps in STEM participation exist and how to remedy them. She says fiction and nonfiction media representations of scientists must be conscientious about the message they send about who makes a good scientist, and creators must consider who they "prop up" as role models and scientific experts. At the same time, young students need exposure to diverse and inclusive academic environments, where it's clear that girls are welcomed and encouraged to thrive.

Cheryan says it's not enough to provide girls with just a handful of examples; her research shows that female STEM aspirants often want to connect with a potential role model based on a number of factors, not just their gender.

Read the entire article here .