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Sunday 19 January 2020

Teens' gender project wins Young Scientist award

Alan O’Sullivan and Cormac Harris from Colaiste Choilm. Photo: Frank McGrath
Alan O’Sullivan and Cormac Harris from Colaiste Choilm. Photo: Frank McGrath

A project which sheds light on how gender stereotyping can be identified from a young age has taken the top prize at the 56th BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.

Cormac Harris and Alan O'Sullivan, both 16 and fourth-year students from Colaiste Choilm, Cork, took home the top prize for their project entitled "A statistical investigation into the prevalence of gender stereotyping in five to seven-year-olds and the development of an initiative to combat gender bias".

The boys had presented their project in the Intermediate section in the Social and Behavioural Sciences category.

Tasks

Head judge in that category Professor Joe Barry said: "Despite awareness of the lower percentage of females relative to males pursuing study and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem), we still do not understand exactly why this is the case.

"The aim of Cormac and Alan's project was to determine how early gender stereotyping can be identified.

"They conducted workshops with 376 five to seven-year-olds from a range of school settings with a number of different tasks.

"These tasks were: choosing between gender-specific and gender-neutral toys; drawing and naming an engineer; and rating male and female competency at a number of gender-specific roles.

"One of the most striking findings emerging from the research was that 96pc of boys drew a male engineer while just over 50pc of girls drew a female engineer.

"This, along with the other data, indicates that gender stereotypes emerge in young children and that they are particularly strong among boys," he said.

The project recognises the need to focus on all children.

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