Children’s books are adding to science’s gender problem

Wilbraham, Susan ORCID logo ORCID: and Caldwell, Elizabeth (2018) Children’s books are adding to science’s gender problem. The Conversation [website] .

[thumbnail of Wilbraham_ChildrensBooksAre.pdf]
PDF - Accepted Version
Available under License CC BY-NC

Download (978kB) | Preview
Official URL:


Ask young children what they want to be when they grow up and the chances are that scientific jobs such as astronaut and doctor will appear high on the list. But ask them to draw a scientist and they are more than twice as likely to draw a man than a woman. Children can form these kinds of biases from many sources. But perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised to see such an absence of women scientists in children’s drawings when the illustrations we show them are often just as bad. Our study of imagery in children’s science books reveals that women are significantly underrepresented. In the physical sciences in particular, the pictures frequently fail to communicate women’s technical skills or knowledge. The imagery in these books gives the impression that science is a subject for men, and that careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) are unrewarding for women. Developmental theories explain that children learn gender expectations to help them to respond appropriately within their social environment. This influences their understanding of who they are and encourages them to behave in a way that is conventional for their gender. Pictures of men and women in children’s science books contribute to these expectations by teaching them “rules” about the occupations suited to each gender. This encourages them to conform to prevailing gender career stereotypes. To counter this, female role models need to be visible in books to help develop girls’ interest in science as they get older, and overcome negative perceptions of female scientists.

Item Type: Article
Journal / Publication Title: The Conversation [website]
Publisher: The Conversation Trust (UK) Limited
Departments: Academic Departments > Health, Psychology & Social Studies (HPSS) > Applied Psychology and Social Studies
Additional Information: Online article.
Depositing User: Susan Wilbraham
Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2018 14:13
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2024 20:18


Downloads per month over past year

Downloads each year

Edit Item