Cormac Harris & Alan O'SullivanWinners of the 2020 BT Young Scientist Award
Cormac Harris and Alan O’Sullivan are Fifth Year students at Coláiste Choilm in Ballincollig in Cork. They won the overall prize at the 2020 BT Young Scientists and Technology Exhibition for their groundbreaking research on gender bias in young schoolchildren. For their project, they set out to determine how early gender stereotyping could be identified – by conducting workshops with almost 400 five to seven-year-olds from a range of school settings. They asked the young children to complete tasks such as drawing and naming an engineer, and rating male and female competency at a number of gender-specific roles. One striking finding of their research was that 90% of boys drew a male engineer, while just over 50% of girls drew a female engineer. The BT Young Scientists and Technology Exhibition judges pointed to the fact that their research “indicates that gender stereotypes emerge in young children and they are particularly strong among boys” – a finding deemed particularly important as interventions typically focus on girls. Cormac and Alan developed what the competition judges described as “an impressive education programme” to counter gender stereotyping in response to their findings. This included resources for primary-school teachers to combat gender stereotyping among young children.