Hairdressing in Space: Depiction of Gender in Science Books for Children

Elizabeth Caldwell, Susan Wilbraham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Stereotypes in the media both reflect and perpetuate the notion that science is a masculine pursuit. The aim of the current study is to explore whether such stereotypes extend to imagery within children’s science books. To determine the extent of stereotypes in gender representation, both quantitative and qualitative analyses were conducted. Results demonstrated that females were under-represented in images across the books surveyed. Analyses of images of adults demonstrated under-representation of women in both physics and mathematics books, but images of children showed no significant difference between genders. Analyses of the target age of the children’s books revealed that books targeted at older children contained fewer images of adult females. Qualitative visual analyses revealed that books about space exploration trivialized women’s expertise, diminished their perceived technical competence, failed to acknowledge their contribution or presence and represented them in a manner that suggested that they were passive, lower status and superficial. Books about science that are currently available to children in libraries are not balanced in terms of their representation of gender. More balanced imagery in children’s science books of women actively participating in scientific occupations would help to demonstrate that careers in these areas are meaningful, fulfilling and achievable for women.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-118
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Science and Popular Culture
Issue number2
Early online date13 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2018


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