For many years, when asked to picture a scientist, many people described images of an older, white man — but that appears to be changing. A 2018 study analyzing more than 20,000 drawings made by children over the past five decades suggests children are increasingly sketching women when asked to ‘picture a scientist.’

On social media, Twitter has begun to verify the accounts of prominent Black sci-commers and scientists, including NASA astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison. And over the years, Dr. Stephen Hawking has made disability visible.

Representation matters. It changes public perception and shows people their dreams are valid and achievable.

Filmmakers Ian Cheney and Sharon Shattuck have teamed up to explore this idea in depth with their new documentary film Picture a Scientist, which screened on virtual theatres in North America in June. It will also be available to watch online this weekend, courtesy of 500 Women Scientists.


On September 12, 500 Women Scientists is hosting a free screening of Picture a Scientist. Viewers will have 48 hours of access to the film. Registrants are also invited to participate in a virtual discussion panel on September 12 and a Wiki-Thon September 13.

Visit the 500 Women Scientists eventbrite to register for the free event.


Featuring geologist Jane Willenbring, chemist Raychelle Burks, and biologist Nancy Hopkins in addition to others who are studying and working to reduce gender bias in science, the film examines how diversity can sharpen and enrich STEM — and bring all of humanity forward.

“We wanted the film to showcase these incredible women scientists and their research, while, in parallel, taking a deep dive into the science of gender bias,” Ian and Sharon said in a statement.

“The personal stories of our scientists might on their own be seen as anecdotal, individual instances of bad luck — but by including pivotal research studies on gender bias, we’re backing up and underlining their stories with data, and showing how systemic and long-standing the problem of gender bias is.”


“Science benefits from diversity,” they continued.

“Not only is it the right thing to do; it’s the best thing for science. Science benefits from having a diversity of perspectives, from people with different economic and cultural backgrounds contributing. That makes science better for all. If … minorities are shut out, we could miss out not only on their perspectives but also their actual contributions to important discoveries for society, like during the worldwide effort right now to fight COVID-19. 

Dr. Nancy Hopkins said it best: “If you believe that passion for science, ability for science, is evenly distributed among the sexes, if you don’t have women, you’ve lost half the best people. Can we really afford to lose those top scientists?”