Something interesting happened during a whiteboarding session with grade 6 today. See if you can spot it in the picture below:
The girls at center and right drew a picture of a scientist to illustrate their board. Seizing the teaching moment, I asked why they drew a man: couldn’t women be scientists? Of course they could, was the indignant reply. One student quickly pointed out that many chefs are men, even though cooking is traditionally considered a woman’s job.
I told them that many of my best female friends were scientists, and fantastic ones at that. I also tried to explain that our picture of scientists being male is partly because men dominated the field historically.
I am going to put up a few pictures of great contemporary researchers (including women and “minorities”) around the classroom. Then, I will do the “Draw a scientist” test in a couple weeks to see what turns up. For these grade 6 students, I don’t see any evidence of a gender gap in enthusiasm, confidence, scientific skills, or content knowledge. Quite refreshing!