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In the Books

A new study finds that Black women are overlooked in biology textbooks, BBC News reports.

Researchers led by Auburn University's Cissy Ballen analyzed the contents of seven introductory biology textbooks commonly used in the US. The names of more than 1,000 scientists were mentioned in these books, with an average 164 scientists mentioned per textbook. Some scientists like Carolus Linnaeus, Charles Darwin, and Gregor Mendel were mentioned in all seven textbooks, while scientists like Hopi Hoekestra, Jane Goodall, and Rosemary Grant were mentioned in three of the seven textbooks, as Ballen and her colleagues report Wednesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Ballen and her colleagues further investigated the race and gender of the scientists highlighted in the textbooks over time to find that the representation of white women and Asian men has increased, while the representation of white men declined. Asian and Hispanic women remain underrepresented, while Black women are not represented at all.

Ballen tells BBC News that other work has shown that having diverse role models is important for students. "Not to be able to see anyone like them in these kinds of fundamental textbooks that they're using, I think it would have a really negative effect," she adds.