What does a scientist look like? Ms. Chabot’s 7th grade Life Science class started the school year with a discussion about the stereotypes that exist around this very question.
In this initial activity, Chabot said that the class examined the limitations of stereotypes that portray scientists as a "man in a white lab coat with beakers and flasks," and discussed the diversity of locations and people who are involved in science in the world today. Chabot has led this activity in her middle school science classes at Westridge since the '90s, but not until the past several years has she seen the mindset of her students shifting.
"Over time," she explained, "I have noticed that while the students’ initial mental image of a scientist is still usually a chemist, it is more and more often a woman. Some do not have any sense of the gender of the person they picture. It’s been heartening to see this trend."
This "portrait of a scientist" activity has been used in a number of studies and social experiments throughout the years, and while generally the outcomes have shown a lack of female and other minority representation, in recent years the results have portrayed more equal representation (we wrote about the possible causes behind this change and why it matters in our 2018 blog post here).
After their discussion in class, each student then created an illustration of a scientist at work. The result? An inspiring collage decorating the walls of the Life Science classroom, displaying an incredible diversity of both gender and cultural backgrounds, incorporating a range of technology and scientific fields. Click through the slideshow below to see a handful of their portraits and be encouraged that the world is indeed changing—our girls are leading the way!