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Using the Tool

Why should museums care about representation?
According to the 2017 Museums and Public Opinion report, 97% of Americans believe that museums are educational assets for their communities. Science centers and museums are regarded as highly credible sources of information by 78% of Americans, while 74% of Americans believe science centers and museums should recommend actions or behaviors (National Awareness, Attitude & Usage Study, 2010). The overwhelming majority of public trust in museums as institutions of moral standard and education, places science centers and museums in a position of opportunity to make a sizable impact on the representation of women and gender minorities within STEM. It is important for museum visitors to see diversity in the STEM workforce. The gender gap in STEM fields, coupled with persistent gender stereotypes, can negatively impact girls’ understanding of their abilities (MacTavish, E.R., 2016) and discourage women from pursuing jobs in STEM fields (Cheryan, S., Master, A., & Meltzoff, A. N., 2015). The conscious action of including an equitable and diverse representation of gender within museum content is a continued step in challenging stereotypes and encouraging public conversation around understanding gender.

What comes next?
Beginning in April 2020, ASTC-member museums will be invited to apply for an IF/THEN® grant. IF/THEN® grant funds can be used for a variety of projects that will increase gender representation in your museum’s content. After the first round of IF/THEN® grants in April 2020, we plan to conduct a second, larger round of IF/THEN® grants later in the year. In total, ASTC plans to award $600,000 to museums for projects that improve representation of women and gender minorities in STEM. For more information visit

How can we fix the issues we found?
In addition to being eligible to apply for IF/THEN® grants to work toward more equitable gender representation, museums that undertake the assessment process will have access to these helpful resources:

  • A nationwide peer network of science museums committed to gender equity
  • The IF/THEN® Collection, a digital media asset library containing free photos and images

Participating in the assessment process will galvanize your efforts to address gender equity in your institution by providing data that will enable you to better identify areas for improvement, establish goals, and develop strategies for continued growth.

What are we doing with the data we collect?
All data provided by participating museums will be kept confidential and only reported in aggregate. You can expect to have initial results by October 2020 and a final report by May 2021, which will be shared with all participants.

Is ASTC collecting data on the additional categories our museum chose
(i.e., race, visible disability, etc.)?

Our data entry spreadsheet will collect the data from your additional categories. While the focus of this project is on gender representation, we know this is not the only type of representation that matters. As a whole, minority groups are often underrepresented in STEM fields and minority women account for only one in ten employed engineers and scientists (NSF, 2016). Reporting the additional categories chosen by your museum can help identify additional representation gaps and inform decisions about future directions for this work.

What if I chose the wrong gender?
The purpose of this tool is not to decide what someone’s gender identity is, but instead capture your personal perception of gender as it appears in your museum’s content. In conducting this assessment, we are unable to ask the people in the images about their gender, so it‘s OK if you mark a person in a gender category different than how the person might identify. This process isn’t perfect, and each person’s perception of gender comes from their own understanding of the world around them, based on their unique life experiences and personal identity surrounding things like culture, gender, race, and sexuality.

Should I count someone as a STEM professional if they don’t look like it, but the text says they are?
Yes! STEM professionals can be identified through text, clothing, tools, action, or any other context clues that indicate they work in a STEM field.

What careers can be considered as STEM Professionals?
Anyone who uses science, technology, engineering, and/or math regularly in their career can be considered a STEM professional. This includes a wide range of careers and topics from social sciences, medicine, science museum educators, and more. We know there might not always be a clear answer if a photo depicts a STEM professional. Do your best and ask yourself “would a visitor see this person as a STEM professional?”.

How do I know what part is the space and what is the element?
The space and element can be defined by the data collection team. For large exhibits, you may choose define a whole hall (like the life science hall) as the space, and one exhibit component as an element (like the DNA interactive). For smaller exhibits, you may choose to define the entire exhibit as both the space and the element. The goal of making these designations is to make it easier for data collectors to tell what areas have been counted and what areas have not.

What roles are necessary to use this tool?
The primary roles we suggest are one toolkit coordinator, one data reporter, and two or more data collectors. In small museums, there may only be one person who serves in all of these roles. In large institutions, there may be multiple data collectors from many different departments within the museum.

  • Toolkit Coordinator: Responsible for making sure the data collection is complete; answers questions from data collectors; organizes the staff sessions; decides where, when, and how data will be collected.
  • Data Reporter: collects the paper forms from data collectors and compiles the information to enter online
  • Data Collectors: attend the pre- and post- training sessions; collect data as assigned by toolkit coordinator

What if we can’t control the images we use (such as having an exhibit on past U.S. presidents who are all men)?
We know you may not be able to control the gender representation in certain exhibits, but we still would like to collect data that includes these exhibits. If an exhibit has content that cannot be changed, you may consider including additional content nearby that connects to the exhibit and highlights other genders as a way to increase representation and knowledge. For example, if your exhibit is on presidents and showcases only men, you could add panels nearby highlighting notable women in politics.

Can we email data as we collect it, sending the same spreadsheet multiple times?
We encourage you to send all data at once, but we understand that you may need to add to your data. If you do, please email us so that we may combine both sets of data from your institution.


  • Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)
    The American Association of University Women
    A 2010 research report by AAUW presents compelling evidence that can help to explain why there are so few women in STEM careers. It presents in-depth yet accessible profiles of eight key research findings that point to environmental and social barriers—including stereotypes, gender bias, and the climate of science and engineering departments in colleges and universities—that continue to block women’s progress in STEM.
  • Beyond the Male/Female Binary: Gender Equity and Inclusion in Evaluation Surveys
    Alexander Lussenhop
    Many museums collect data about their staff, volunteers, and/or visitors in some capacity, and questions about sex and gender are ubiquitous on their forms and surveys. However, museums can do more to consider the inclusivity of their sex and gender questions by going beyond the male/female binary. Museums should consider the needs of transgender and non-binary respondents in rethinking their gender data collection efforts.
  • The GENDER Book
    Mel Reiff Hill, Jay Mays, and Robin Mack
    “The GENDER Book” is a book that provides a gender 101 reading for people of all ages and experiences. This is a visual book with unique and varied characters who explore a wide range of topics on gender. The book is the result of broad and in-depth research, that includes diverse community voices, and is a great resource for anyone wanting to learn more about gender no matter their level of understanding and experience.
  • Implicit Association Tests
    Project Implicit
    The Project Implicit website houses Implicit Association Tests (IAT) on multiple subjects, which can aid in your understanding of the unconscious bias that you hold. The Gender-Career IAT can reveal links between females and family and between males and career, while the Gender-Science IAT can reveal a relative link between liberal arts and females and between science and males.
  • A Progressive’s Style Guide
    Hanna Thomas and Anna Hirsch
    “A Progressive’s Style Guide” highlights the power of words by demonstrating how to shift language choice to a more active people-focused direction that promotes respect and empowerment. This guide provides an in-depth look at fourteen “issue areas” of language, like age, gender, and race, and provides resources, guidelines, and specific recommendations for terms that should be avoided and terms that can be used to develop an environment of acceptance for each area.
  • The Queer-Inclusive Museum
    Margaret Middleton
    “The Queer-Inclusive Museum” provides discussion on the ways in which museums can build queer inclusion into their institutions. The article specifically explores four tiers for this inclusion: programming, temporary exhibitions, interpretive strategy, and broad institutional support. This resource provides current examples of how museums are structuring themselves to be more inclusive to queer people and stories, while also explaining possible steps for museums at each tier.
  • A Coworker’s Guide To: Gender Transition And Transgender Inclusion In The Museum Field
    The LGBTQ Alliance of AAM’s Task Force for Transgender Inclusion
    “A Coworker’s Guide To: Gender Transition And Transgender Inclusion In The Museum Field” is one piece of the three part “Toolkit for Trans Individuals, Institutions, and Coworkers” (also includes an Institution’s Guide and a Transitioning Professional’s Guide). The guide for coworkers includes suggestions on how to make your workspace more welcoming and trans-friendly, FAQs about trans colleagues, and basic vocabulary with updated language about gender.

The IF/THEN® Coalition includes partners across industries undertaking projects to increase the representation of women in STEM. In its role as an IF/THEN® Coalition Member, ASTC is creating a gender representation toolkit, awarding grants, and developing a digital library with photos and videos of women in STEM.

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