Research – Canadian Association for Girls In Science (CAGIS)
Happy teenager playing with model airplane outdoors


Close your eyes and picture a scientist. What do you see? The most common description among school children is an old White man with messy hair, glasses, and a lab coat. 1 A recent meta-analysis that examined five decades of Draw-a-Scientist studies found that children have increasingly drawn female scientists over time. However, drawings of female scientists decrease as children get older. While children draw approximately equal numbers of male and female scientists at ages 5-6, by ages 14-15, teenagers draw male scientists four times more frequently than they draw female scientists.1

Children are inundated with stereotypical portrayals of scientists in the media and society including TV shows and children’s toys, which are becoming increasingly gender divided.2
Research has demonstrated that the media and children’s exposure to scientists plays a strong role in shaping their perceptions of scientists.1,3,4 These media portrayals of scientists can influence students’ interest in entering those fields.4

CAGIS uses a variety of elements that have been demonstrated by research to facilitate girls’ interest in STEM.

For example, visits from female scientists, reading articles about women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), and teachers profiling women in STEM decrease stereotypic associations and improve attitudes toward women in science among female and male school children.5,6 Providing children with non-stereotyped and diverse role models in the sciences can influence perceptions of scientists and interest in pursuing STEM fields. Additional research indicates that hands-on activities, 7,8,9 project based science,7 cooperative learning,10 and mentoring programs that connect girls to scientists11 improve learning and attitudes towards STEM.

Thus, our approach is consistent with scientific findings on how to facilitate girls’ interest in STEM fields.

To read more, please see Dr. Larissa Vingilis-Jaremko’s briefing to the Canadian House of Commons’ Standing Committee on the Status of Women and her article in Learning Landscapes.
Vingilis-Jaremko, L. (2017). Briefing to the Canadian House of Commons’ Standing Committee on the Status of Women. Economic Security of Women in Canada.
Vingilis-Jaremko, L. (2010). How Science Clubs Can Support Girls’ Interest in Science. LEARNing Landscapes, 3(2), 155-160.

1 Miller, D. I., Nolla, K. M., Eagly, A. H., & Uttal, D. H. (2018). The Development of Children’s Gender‐Science Stereotypes: A Meta‐analysis of 5 Decades of US Draw‐A‐Scientist Studies. Child development.

2 Sweet, E. (2014, December 9). Toys Are More Divided by Gender Now Than They Were 50 Years Ago. The Atlantic. Retrieved from

3 Tan, A. L., Jocz, J. A., & Zhai, J. (2017). Spiderman and science: How students’ perceptions of scientists are shaped by popular media. Public Understanding of Science, 26(5), 520-530.

4 Cheryan, S., Plaut, V. C., Handron, C., & Hudson, L. (2013). The stereotypical computer scientist: Gendered media representations as a barrier to inclusion for women. Sex roles, 69(1-2), 58-71.

5 Bodzin, A., & Gehringer, M. (2001). Breaking science stereotypes. Science and Children, 38(4), 36.

6 Smith, W. S., & Erb, T. O. (1986). Effect of women science career role models on early adolescents’ attitudes toward scientists and women in science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 23(8), 667-676.

7 Kanter, D. E., & Schreck, M. (2006). Learning content using complex data in project‐based science: An example from high school biology in urban classrooms. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2006(108), 77-91.

8 Mosatche, H. S., Matloff-Nieves, S., Kekelis, L., & Lawner, E. K. (2013). Effective STEM programs for adolescent girls: Three approaches and many lessons learned. Afterschool matters, 17, 17-25.

9 Stohr-Hunt, P. M. (1996). An analysis of frequency of hands-on experience and science achievement. Journal of research in Science Teaching, 33(1), 101-109.

10 Gupta, M. L. (2004). Enhancing student performance through cooperative learning in physical sciences. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 29(1), 63-73.

11 Marginson, S., Tytler, R., Freeman, B., & Roberts, K. (2013). STEM: country comparisons: international comparisons of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. Final report.

12 Dionne-Simard, D., Galarneau, D., LaRochelle-Côté , S. (2016, June 24). Women in scientific occupations in Canada. Statistics Canada. Retrieved from