He looked at 50 years of kids' drawings of scientists. What he found? Fascinating.

What do kids think a scientist "looks like" nowadays?

It's a question David Miller, a researcher and psychology doctoral candidate at Northwestern University, wanted to find out. So he started digging.

Miller and a team of researchers looked at 78 "draw-a-scientist" studies spanning the previous five decades. As the name suggests, students in kindergarten through grade 12 were asked to draw a scientist and answer some basic questions.

Some of their responses throughout the years, by the way, were quite adorable.



Image courtesy of Richard Jones and Dr. Lori Fulton at University of Hawaii at Manoa.


More important than any cuteness factor, however, was the noticeable shift in what kinds of scientists children have drawn since the 1960s.

Over the course of five decades, an increasing number of children drew scientists who were women.

Image courtesy of Richard Jones and Dr. Lori Fulton at University of Hawaii at Manoa.

These findings by Miller and his team at Northwestern, newly published in the journal Child Development, led to encouraging results for anyone hoping more girls may be taking interest — or, at the very least, may potentially see themselves — in STEM-related hobbies or careers.

The earliest study Miller analyzed took place between 1966 and 1977, when an overwhelming number of elementary-aged students drew men as scientists: Less than 1% of the nearly 5,000 drawings depicted women. More recent research, however, reflects a sharp contrast in that perception: In studies between 1985 and 2016, 28% of children, on average, drew scientists that were women.

Image courtesy of Vasilia Christidou.

The more recent drawings suggest stereotypes linking only men to science-related fields has weakened substantially over time in the U.S., researchers concluded.

"Given this change in stereotypes, girls in recent years might now develop interests in science more freely than before," Miller, the lead author of the study, said in a press release.

Image courtesy of Richard Jones and Dr. Lori Fulton at University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Clearly, there's still progress to be had.

28% is not nearly a high-enough figure. Backward ideas about who can and should become scientists are still being absorbed by kids growing up in the 21st century. Boys are still less likely to draw women scientists than girls are, the research found. And older kids are more likely to draw men than younger ones are, suggesting stereotypes may become more entrenched as kids age.

Furthermore, when it comes to skin color, the overwhelming majority of kids drew scientists interpreted as being white. Although, Miller noted to the The Atlantic, race and ethnicity were more difficult to track, given kids used various colors (or no colors) to draw their scientists throughout the years.

Still, when it comes to gender, the findings show true progress.

Image courtesy of Vasilia Christidou.

The study shows why representation matters.

"It’s optimistic that children’s stereotypes change as gender roles change in society too," Miller said. When girls see doctors, engineers, or computer scientists that are women — whether it be in their own personal lives or on TV and film screens — it can have a powerful effect.

"Children draw what they see,” Toni Schmader of the University of British Columbia at Vancouver told Nature. And when girls can see themselves as anything this world has to offer, we're making meaningful progress.

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Women around the world are constantly bombarded by traditional and outdated societal expectations when it comes to how they live their lives: meet a man, get married, buy a home, have kids.

Many of these pressures often come from within their own families and friend circles, which can be a source of tension and disconnect in their lives.

Global skincare brand SK-II created a new campaign exploring these expectations from the perspective of four women in four different countries whose timelines vary dramatically from what their mothers, grandmothers, or close friends envision for them.

SK-II had Katie Couric meet with these women and their loved ones to discuss the evolving and controversial topic of marriage pressure and societal expectations.

SK-II

"What happens when dreams clash with expectations? We're all supposed to hit certain milestones: a degree, marriage, a family," Couric said before diving into conversation with the "young women who are defining their own lives while navigating the expectations of the ones who love them most."

Maluca, a musician in New York, explains that she comes from an immigrant family, which comes with the expectation that she should live the "American Dream."

"You come here, go to school, you get married, buy a house, have kids," she said.

Her mother, who herself achieved the "American Dream" with hard work and dedication when she came to the United States, wants to see her daughter living a stable life.

"I'd love for her to be married and I'd love her to have a big wedding," she said.

Chun Xia, an award-winning Chinese actress who's outspoken about empowering other young women in China, said people question her marital status regularly.

"I'm always asked, 'Don't you want to get married? Don't you want to start a family and have kids like you should at your age?' But the truth is I really don't want to at this point. I am not ready yet," she said.

In South Korea, Nara, a queer-identifying artist, believes her generation should have a choice in everything they do, but her mother has a different plan in mind.

SK-II

"I just thought she would have a job and meet a man to get married in her early 30s," Nara's mom said.

But Nara hopes she can one day marry her girlfriend, even though it's currently illegal in her country.

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Maina, a 27-year-old Japanese woman, explains that in her home country, those who aren't married by the time they're 25 to 30, are often referred to as "unsold goods."

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SK-II

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"It looks like she was born in the right time to be free and confident in what she wants to do," she said.

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The video ends with the tagline: "Forge your own path and choose the life you want; Draw your own timeline."

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