Is the Scientist a Woman? Or a Man?

Picture a scientist. Is the scientist a woman? Or a man? Most of us pictured a man, but it’s changing for the better.

For decades, researchers have looked into the stereotypes associated with scientists. We are all familiar with this depiction:

The scientist is a man who wears a white coat and works in a laboratory.

But can the scientist be a woman? Rather, do we ever picture the scientist as a woman?

Excellent article today from @Kristel.

Let me express a personal thanks to all the women that participate here at Peaceful Science, and some how manage to put up with all the men here. Your presence is important and very much appreciated.


I’m talking here about @thoughtful , @Michelle , @Boscopup , @Kristel, @ccreyes, @stlyankeefan and others that have come by. Thank you. I really mean that.

Please let us know how we can do better at welcoming and including women here.


I wonder how AI would handle this task. Check out this blog:

What happens if we ask it to draw a scientist? Would it be a man or a woman?

1 Like

First of all, @Kristel is a great writer. I really appreciate her articles.

Reading it made me brainstorm - how could this change? First things that came to mind were professional science orgs coaching high school teachers, guidance counselors, university advisors, and those who teach freshman courses in liberal arts schools especially. If all were encouraged or taught to look for female students who showed aptitude in a required STEM course and encouraged them to take elective STEM courses, that might make a difference. If the young woman had success, that might spark a career interest.

When I was in high school, I just didn’t know the questions to ask. I was good at math, but I didn’t like biology. I was looking at courses to take, and thought, “what’s physics? but I don’t like science so I’ll take something else.” Now, I wish I had taken it. For example, if a math teacher was encouraged to talk to female students about taking physics or a related elective, then that might make a difference. Even a short conversation would help - because teenage students would undoubtedly be impressed when a teacher shows interest and value in their skills.

If anyone is part of an organization that could do this, I’d encourage it.

I’ll think about ways to encourage other women to join here. :slight_smile:


Thanks for your kind words, Valerie.

I agree with you. These questions did not came to mind when I was in high school either! I count myself lucky to have had amazing female science teachers. Yet not many girls receive the same support for their interests.

I think this is where science outreach and communication can help raise the awareness :slight_smile:


Funny, I pictured the cast of the sitcom, Big Bang Theory. So more men than women but with the men (epitomized by Sheldon) speaking the most. Not a very attractive picture, is it? Somewhere beneath the effects of culture, perhaps testosterone does embolden the less fair sex to speak up more assertively? Hopefully this is changing but with any luck perhaps in addition to women trusting their voice more we males will learn to feel the room for how others are doing.


While doing my graduate work and postdoctoral training in the biological sciences (cellular and molecular medicine and immunology) at 2 top-tier medical universities (Johns Hopkins and Yale) there were always at least 50% women in training, perhaps even more. (Although in math, engineering and the physical sciences there are still less women trained). It was after that initial training, on the science career track (in the biological sciences) that women fell away. It is hard to balance the pressures of work and family in this field, and as the article states, there is likely bias further up in the career track. The ranks of professors and the higher level positions on the corporate track are still dominated by men, in spite so many of women being trained. However, I am hopeful that things are still changing, as I see more and more women reaching the higher levels in their careers, and I have had some good mentors to look up to along the way.


Refreshing read.

I work in a STEM field and can say I’ve definitely had some interesting experiences… Due to my gender neutral name and work title, I’ve had some people be very surprised I’m female when they’ve met me in person. Some thought they were talking to the wrong person lol! slightly awkward

In all that though I can definitely see how things are changing over time and how it’s become normalized and not surprising for women to work in STEM… as well as other fields not historical occupied by women.

I have a positive hope for the future that all people will be valued equally for their skills, talents, and aptitude.


This topic was automatically closed 7 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.