Report breaks new ground with insights on gender representation in science museum content

In 2019, the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) and the IF/THEN® Initiative partnered to launch an ambitious data collection project designed to help museums across the United States not only see where they are when it comes to equitable gender representation in exhibits and other museum content, but where they could go.

After a months-long development process carried out in collaboration with an advisory group and design team of museum staff with expertise in gender equity and evaluation, ASTC’s IF/THEN® Gender Representation Toolkit was released in February 2020.

The timing couldn’t have been worse. Almost immediately after science centers and museums had the opportunity to download the toolkit and prepare to collect data on the visual representation of gender in their exhibits, signage, and other types of content, they all closed their doors to adhere to public health guidance and protect their communities in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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What happened next is a testament to the museum community’s commitment to pursuing equitable practices—over 70 museums around the world collected data with the toolkit that they submitted to the ASTC team. After analyzing these data and identifying key trends, we’re pleased to share the results of this incredible effort with the release of the Gender Representation in Science Center and Museum Content: Findings from ASTC’s Gender Representation Toolkit. This report features analysis across different types and areas of museum content as well as promising next steps for the future. It can help your museum benchmark who is depicted in your content and take steps towards ensuring equitable representation.

Key Takeaways

Museums tend to feature more equitable gender representation among children than among adults. Half of all depictions of children were perceived as girls while 42% of all depictions of adults were perceived as women.

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Museums tend to portray STEM professionals as men more frequently than as women. Of all the STEM professionals depicted in museum content, 59% were perceived as men, while 38% were perceived as women. This disparity was largest in specialized museums (defined as museums with a focus on one science topic, such as math, medicine, or aviation) with just 17% of STEM professionals perceived as women.

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Women are less likely to be depicted in educational content than in promotional materials. Adults perceived as women were depicted in the lowest proportions in exhibits and program materials (30% and 40%, respectively) but depicted in much higher proportions in promotional materials and websites (56% and 52%, respectively).

More to Come

In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be sharing a more detailed look at the report’s key findings with posts here on the ASTC blog. In the meantime, read the full report and view the recording of our report release webinar below to learn more.

Feeling Inspired?

Each year, an estimated 120 million people visit ASTC-member museums and it’s important for those visitors—especially young people—to see diversity in who can contribute to and participate in STEM.

Collect your own data. While ASTC’s data collection efforts have concluded, you can still use the toolkit to collect data in your museum. Findings can be used to prompt conversations among staff about gender equity and drive concrete change in your institution. Download the toolkit and get started today.

Update your content. If you’d like to update your museum’s content, you can find images, videos, and other media featuring women in STEM in the IF/THEN® Collection asset library. Produced in partnership with the National Girls Collaborative Project, this library is the largest resource of its kind dedicated to increasing access to images reflecting the diversity of women and gender minorities in STEM.

Learn from experience. Read blog posts from ASTC-member science centers and museums about how the toolkit inspired them, and how they used the IF/THEN® Collection to improve representation of women in STEM throughout their museum content.

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