This is what I got back from google when I searched for “Doctor” in images.
This is what I got back from Google when I searched for “Engineer” in images.
In both of these images, about one forth of the images showed women in these job positions. And even few numbers of the pictures showed minorities working in these jobs.
She talked about the “Draw a scientist” test. I distinctly remember taking a version test my freshman year of high school. I was sitting in health class and the teacher had gave us a piece of paper and asked us to draw a doctor, an athlete, and a firefighter. I drew a white male doctor, a white female athlete (the USA swim team is the best team ever), and a white male fire fighter. She then went into a discussion of gender stereotypes and how it impacts what jobs we think we can do.
— Minister of Science (@ScienceMin) November 16, 2017
This blog post about the gender gap does a really great job of highlighting the difference in men and women in STEM occupations: Why Do We Need More Women in STEM?
This issue is not just in STEM. It is in every profession. Reese Witherspoon gave an amazing speech on the subject in her Woman of the year speech.
This discrepancy does not just discourage girls to go into science. It is causing people of minorities to be discouraged to get into STEM.
Statistics about minorities in STEM
- 73% of scientists and engineers are white
- 55% are white males
- 18% are white female
- Only 1 in 10 STEM jobs are held by a minority woman
- African Americans, American Indians, and Hispanics earn only 12% of engineering degrees
- Half of Asians with a STEM degree have a job in STEM while only 33% of other minorities with a STEM degree have a job in STEM
- More minorities switch majors from a STEM program
These statistics are disheartening. But the basis for them is even worse.
In our schools there is a bias towards teaching our students about male scientists and male inventors. And there is an even larger bias of showing our students white people in these professions and a lack of minorities.
This leaves many students asking “are there any scientists like me?”
And of course there are!
— Hidden Figures (@HiddenFigures) May 4, 2017
There are African Americans changing the world in all areas of science and engineering.
— Hidden Figures (@HiddenFigures) April 13, 2017
There are Asians changing the way science works every day.
Temple Grandin is a animal behaviorist who is also diagnosed on the Autism spectrum.
Students need to know that there is always someone they can look up to in any field they could ever want to pursue. Traditional schooling is what drives people out of it. Students aren’t seeing “people like them” in fields that interest them and so they decide that they can’t pursue that profession any more.
I know I have put a ton of videos in this post, but I think they can tell you more about this issue than I could ever begin to describe.
I was lucky. I grew up as a only child in a semi rural community. I was homeschooled, so I did not get much technical science instruction. What what I did get were parents that let me explore anything I wanted. I had pet chickens that I was in charge of caring for. I had ducks to care for. My pool once had multiple frogs lay eggs and I was able to watch them turn into frogs. My dad was a hunter and he would let me help dress the deer he brought in. My dad also let me care for some orphaned raccoons and helped me raise them until they were big enough to be set into the wild. I learned so much more about nature and random things than I would in a traditional educational setting. Never once did my parents say “Put that down” or “Don’t do that” unless it was like actually dangerous.
So what am I going to do in my classroom to make sure my students do not feel ostracized in science?
I am going to have different posters about scientists all around the room. They are going to be of different races, genders and even different areas of science to encourage my students to see what they can do.
In an above picture, I showed a teachers “Scientist of the month” board. I want to do the same thing, but I am going to find a woman or minority scientist that has done work in the field that the unit is focusing on. I will do a brief lesson on that scientist at the beginning of the unit and then encourage my students to do independent research about the topics we are learning to learn more about people who have done work in that field.
Lesson Plan: Second day of school
- Have students sit down and welcome them to the class
- Give them each a red piece of paper and a blue piece of paper
- Show them a picture of a man and a women and ask who do you think is the doctor? Assign a color to the man and woman. Take a quick tally
- Show them a picture of a white man and a man of color and ask who is the engineer. Assign a color to each man. Take a quick tally.
- Show them a picture of a white woman and a woman of color and ask who is the biologist. Assign a color to each person. Take a quick tally.
- Show them the Ted Talk by Temple Grandin and a clip from Hidden Figures
- Have them write a short reflection on the videos and the surveys and how it altered their perceptions on who is a scientist.
Now I know this blog has had kind of a depressing vibe because of the nature of the topic, but society has been changing! In the past when reading about the finding of the structure of DNA, students have learned about Watson and Crick and then learned about Rosalind Franklin as an after thought. When looking through a newer high school biology textbook, Franklin is the first person introduced with the topic!
So now I urge you, show all your students scientists. Show them scientists of all walks of life. Do not just focus on their work, focus on who they are! Let your students see what they were like as a person and let them make connections to them!