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What Scientists Look Like July 4, 2010

Posted by jburnstein in For parents, From the media.
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From the Boston Sunday Globe. July 4, 2010. Yes, old news, but…

The male dominance of many scientific fields troubles educators, as does the widespread notion that science is for off-the-charts geniuses only, or social misfits. A study of the impressions that middle-school kids have of scientists shows how deep such stereotypes run and how soon they take hold. (The research isn’t new–it dates to early last decade–but it attracted fresh attention after Geek Feminism Blog highlighted it.)

In the study, 31 seventh-graders were asked to describe and sketch a typical scientist. Then they visited Fermilab, the applied-physics facility in Batavia, Ill. After a tour and meetings with actual lab employees, they repeated the exercise.

The study testifies to the power of the geek trope: The ”before” sketches have a definite mad-scientist vibe, in contrast to the ”after” pictures, which depict more or less ordinary looking folks.

Another striking contrast:

■Among girls (14 in total), 36 percent portrayed a female scientist in the ”before” drawing, and 57 percent portrayed a female scientist in the ”after” drawing.

■Among boys (17 in total), 100 percent portrayed a male scientist in the ”before” drawing, and 100 percent portrayed a male scientist in the ”after” drawing.

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2010/07/04/a_mall_for_america/

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