With Great Power Comes Gender Diversity: STEM Stereotypes and Marvel Superpowers





STEM, Comics, Graphic Novels, Gender, Stereotypes


Gender representation inequality occurs across various STEM sub-disciplines. For example, the sub-disciplines of computer science and engineering are male-dominant, while psychology and biological sciences are female-dominant. One possible cause of this gender inequality is the STEM professional stereotype; created, in large part, by media portrayals of STEM scientists. Across four studies I analyze the gender representation in portrayals of STEM skills in Marvel comics and their relation to real-world STEM educational outcomes, namely, bachelor’s degrees attained in STEM. Study #1 shows that the portrayals of many STEM skills are gender biased for Marvel characters debuting before 1991. Study #2 shows that this gender bias in Marvel comics correlated with real-world STEM educational outcomes. Study #3 shows that Marvel characters debuting after 2000 show no gender biases in the portrayals of STEM skills. Finally, Study #4 makes predictions of how real-world educational outcomes are expected to change due to the increased gender equality in the portrayal of STEM skills in popular media.


Alverson, Brigid. “NYCC Insider Sessions Powered By ICv2: A Demographic Snapshot of Comics Buyers.” ICv2, 19 Oct. 2017, www.icv2.com/articles/news/view/38709/nycc-insider-sessions-powered-icv2-a-demographic-snapshot-comics-buyers. Accessed 4 Aug. 2022.

Akoglu, Haldun. “User's Guide to Correlation Coefficients.” Turkish Journal of Emergency Medicine, vol. 18, no. 3, 7 Aug. 2018, pp. 91–93. DOI: 10.1016/j.tjem.2018.08.001.

Barman, Charles R. “Students’ Views of Scientists and Science: Results from a National Study.” Sci-ence and Children, vol. 35, no. 1, 1997, pp. 18–24. https://www.jstor.org/stable/43170585

Barth, Joan M., et al. “Gender Stereotypes and Belonging across High School Girls’ Social Groups: Beyond the STEM Classroom.” Social Psychology of Education, vol. 25, no. 1, Feb. 2022, pp. 275–92. DOI: 10.1007/s11218-021-09683-2

Beardslee, David C., and Donald D. O’Dowd. “The College-Student Image of the Scientist.” Science, vol. 133, no. 3457, 31 Mar. 1961, pp. 997–1001. DOI: 10.1126/science.133.3457.997

Blickenstaff, Jacob Clark. “Women and Science Careers: Leaky Pipeline or Gender Filter?” Gender and Education, vol. 17, no. 4, Oct. 2005, pp. 369–86. DOI: 10.1080/09540250500145072

Brunner, Nathan. “Data: At What Age Do Students Graduate from College?” Salarship, 25 Jan. 2022, www.salarship.com/data/average-age-college-graduates/. Accessed 4 Aug. 2022.

Ceci, Stephen J., et al. “Women's Underrepresentation in Science: Sociocultural and Biological Con-siderations.” Psychological Bulletin, vol. 135, no. 2, Mar. 2009, pp. 218–61. DOI: 10.1037/a0014412

Ceci, Stephen J., et al. “Women in Academic Science: A Changing Landscape.” Psychological Science in the Public Interest, vol. 15, no. 3, Dec. 2014, pp. 75–141, DOI: 10.1177/1529100614541236

Cheryan, Sapna. “Understanding the Paradox in Math-Related Fields: Why Do Some Gender Gaps Remain While Others Do Not?” Sex Roles, vol. 66, no. 3–4, Feb. 2012, pp. 184–90. DOI: 10.1007/s11199-011-0060-z

Cheryan, Sapna, et al. “The Stereotypical Computer Scientist: Gendered Media Representations as a Barrier to Inclusion for Women.” Sex Roles, vol. 69, no. 1–2, July 2013, pp. 58–71. DOI: 10.1007/s11199-013-0296-x

Cheryan, Sapna, et al. “Cultural Stereotypes As Gatekeepers: Increasing Girls' Interest In Computer Science And Engineering By Diversifying Stereotypes.” Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 6, no. 49, 11 Feb. 2015, pp. 1-8. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00049

College Board. “Advanced Placement Student Participation and Performance Climb in Unison.” Col-lege Board Newsroom, 6 Feb. 2020, www.newsroom.collegeboard.org/advanced-placement-student-participation-and-performance-climb-unison. Accessed 4 May 2022.

Comic Vine. www.comicvine.gamespot.com. Accessed 5 May 2022.

Diekman, Amanda B., et al. “Malleability in Communal Goals and Beliefs Influences Attraction to Stem Careers: Evidence for a Goal Congruity Perspective.” Journal of Personality and Social Psy-chology, vol. 101, no. 5, Nov. 2011, pp. 902–18. DOI: 10.1037/a0025199

Diekman, Amanda B., et al. “Seeking Congruity between Goals and Roles: A New Look at Why Women Opt Out of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Careers.” Psychologi-cal Science, vol. 21, no. 8, Aug. 2010, pp. 1051–57. DOI: 10.1177/0956797610377342

Evans, Clifford D., and Amanda B. Diekman. “On Motivated Role Selection: Gender Beliefs, Distant Goals, and Career Interest.” Psychology of Women Quarterly, vol. 33, no. 2, Jun. 2009, pp. 235–49. DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.2009.01493.x

Finson, Kevin D. “Drawing a Scientist: What We Do and Do Not Know After Fifty Years of Draw-ings.” School Science & Mathematics, vol. 102, no. 7, Nov. 2002, p. 335–45. DOI: 10.1111/j.1949-8594.2002.tb18217.x

Fujioka, Yuki. “Television Portrayals and African-American Stereotypes: Examination of Television Effects When Direct Contacts Is Lacking.” Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, vol. 76, no. 1, Spring 1999, pp. 52–75. DOI: 10.1177/107769909907600105

Gamson, William A., et al. “Media Images and the Social Construction of Reality.” Annual Review of Sociology, vol. 18, no. 1, Aug. 1992, pp. 373–93. DOI: 10.1146/annurev.so.18.080192.002105

Gelernter, David. “Women and Science at Yale.” The Weekly Standard, 21 Jun. 1999, www.washingtonexaminer.com/weekly-standard/women-and-science-at-yale. Accessed 4 Aug. 2022.

Good, Catherine, et al. “Why Do Women Opt Out? Sense of Belonging and Women’s Representa-tion in Mathematics.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 102, no. 4, Apr. 2012, pp. 700–17. DOI: 10.1037/a0026659

Hastorf, Albert H., and Hadley Cantril. “They Saw a Game; a Case Study.” The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, vol. 49, no. 1, Jan. 1954, pp. 129–34. DOI: 10.1037/h0057880

“Indicator 26: STEM Degrees.” National Center for Education Statistics, Feb. 2019, http://www.nces.ed.gov/programs/raceindicators/indicator_reg.asp. Accessed 4 Aug. 2022.

“Jean Grey.” Comic Vine, www.comicvine.gamespot.com/jean-grey/4005-3552/. Accessed 5 May 2022.

Johns, Rafael. “Comic Book Publishers Struggle to Attract New Generation of Readers.” npr.org, 1 May 2015, www.npr.org/2015/05/01/403597712/comic-book-publishers-struggle-to-attract-new-generation-of-readers. Accessed 4 Aug. 2022.

Kaminski, Len, et al. Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Master Edition. Marvel Publishing, 1993.

Kentic, Jovana. “18 Colorful Comic Book Industry Statistics for 2022.” Modern Gentlemen, 25 Jan. 2022, www.moderngentlemen.net/comic-book-industry-statistics/. Accessed 4 Aug. 2022.

Leaper, Campbell, et al. “Variations in the Gender-Stereotyped Content of Children’s Television Cartoons Across Genres.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology, vol. 32, no. 8, Aug. 2002, pp. 1653–62. DOI: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2002.tb02767.x

Lee, James Daniel. “Which Kids Can ‘Become’ Scientists? Effects of Gender, Self-Concepts, and Per-ceptions of Scientists.” Social Psychology Quarterly, vol. 61, no. 3, 1998, pp. 199–219. DOI: 10.2307/2787108

Leslie, Sarah-Jane, et al. “Expectations of Brilliance Underlie Gender Distributions across Academic Disciplines.” Science, vol. 347, no. 6219, Jan. 2015, pp. 262–65. DOI: 10.1126/science.1261375

Lewis, Karyn L., et al. “Fitting in or Opting Out: A Review of Key Social-Psychological Factors In-fluencing a Sense of Belonging for Women in Physics.” Physical Review Physics Education Re-search, vol. 12, no. 2, Jul. 2016, pp. 020110-1–020111-10. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevPhysEducRes.12.020110

“List of Marvel Comics superhero debuts.” Wikipedia, www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Marvel_Comics_superhero_debuts. Accessed 5 May 2022.

Margolis, Jane, and Allan Fisher. “The Anatomy of Interest: Women in Undergraduate Computer Science.” Women’s Studies Quarterly, vol. 28, no. 1/2, Spring/Summer 2000, pp. 104–27. www.jstor.org/stable/40004448

Markus, Hazel, and Paula S. Nurius. “Possible Selves.” American Psychologist, vol. 41, no. 9, Sep. 1986, pp. 954–69. DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.41.9.954

“Marvel: Characters.” Comic Vine, www.comicvine.gamespot.com/marvel/4010-31/characters/. Ac-cessed 5 May 2022.

Mead, Margaret, and Rhoda Métraux. “Image of the Scientist among High-School Students: A Pilot Study.” Science, vol. 126, no. 3270, Aug. 1957, pp. 384–90. DOI: 10.1126/science.126.3270.384

Medin, Douglas et al. “Point of View Affects How Science Is Done: Gender and Culture Influence Research on a Fundamental Level.” Scientific American, 1 Oct. 2014, www.scientificamerican.com/article/point-of-view-affects-how-science-is-done/. Accessed 4 Aug. 2022.

Meissner, William W. “The Role of Imitative Social Learning in Identificatory Processes.” Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, vol. 22, no. 3, Jun. 1974, pp. 512–36, DOI: 10.1177/000306517402200303

Miller, M. Mark, and Byron Reeves. “Dramatic TV Content and Children’s Sex-Role Stereotypes.” Journal of Broadcasting, vol. 20, no. 1, Dec. 1976, p. 35–50. DOI: 10.1080/08838157609386373

“Nico Minoru.” Comic Vine, www.comicvine.gamespot.com/nico-minoru/4005-1940/. Accessed 5 May 2022.

Scherz, Zahava, and Miri Oren. “How to Change Students’ Images of Science and Technology.” Sci-ence Education, vol. 90, no. 6, Nov. 2006, pp. 965–85. DOI: 10.1002/sce.20159

Schmader, Toni, et al. “An Integrated Process Model of Stereotype Threat Effects on Performance.” Psychological Review, vol. 115, no. 2, Apr. 2008, pp. 336–56. DOI: 10.1037/0033-295X.115.2.336

“Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, including Computer Science.” US Department of Ed-ucation, www.ed.gov/stem. Accessed 4 May 2022.

“Scientists.” Marvel Database, www.marvel.fandom.com/wiki/Category:Scientists. Accessed 5 May 2022.

Shashaani, Lily. “Gender-Differences in Computer Experience and Its Influence on Computer Atti-tudes.” Journal of Educational Computing Research, vol. 11, no. 4, Dec. 1994, pp. 347–67, DOI: 10.2190/64MD-HTKW-PDXV-RD62

Shendruk, Amanda. “Analyzing the Gender Representation of 34,476 Comic Book Characters.” The Pudding, www.pudding.cool/2017/07/comics/. Accessed 5 May 2022.

Smith, Jessi L., et al. “When Trying Hard Isn’t Natural: Women’s Belonging with and Motivation for Male-Dominated STEM Fields as a Function of Effort Expenditure Concerns.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, vol. 39, no. 2, Feb. 2013, pp. 131–43. DOI: 10.1177/0146167212468332

Song, Jinwoong, and Kwang-Suk Kim. “How Korean Students See Scientists: The Images of the Sci-entist.” International Journal of Science Education, vol. 21, no. 9, Sept. 1999, pp. 957–77. DOI: 10.1080/095006999290255

Steele, Claude, M. “A Threat in the Air. How Stereotypes Shape Intellectual Identity and Perfor-mance.” The American Psychologist, vol. 52, no. 6, Jun. 1997, pp. 613–29. DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.52.6.613

Steinke, Jocelyn. “Adolescent Girls’ STEM Identity Formation and Media Images of STEM Profes-sionals: Considering the Influence of Contextual Cues.” Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 8, no. 716, May 2017, pp. 1-15. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00716

Steinke, Jocelyn. “Cultural Representations of Gender and Science.” Science Communication, vol. 27, no. 1, Sep. 2005, pp. 27–63. DOI: 10.1177/1075547005278610

Steinke, Jocelyn, et al. “Assessing Media Influences on Middle School-Aged Children’s Perceptions of Women in Science Using the Draw-A-Scientist Test (DAST).” Science Communication, vol. 29, no. 1, Sep. 2007, pp. 35–64. DOI: 10.1177/1075547007306508

Tan, Aik-Ling, et al. “Spiderman and Science: How Students’ Perceptions of Scientists Are Shaped by Popular Media.” Public Understanding of Science, vol. 26, no. 5, Jul. 2017, pp. 520–30. DOI: 10.1177/0963662515615086

Van Veelen, Ruth, and Belle Derks. “Academics as Agentic Superheroes: Female Academics’ Lack of Fit with the Agentic Stereotype of Success Limits Their Career Advancement.” British Jour-nal of Social Psychology, vol. 00, Dec. 2021, pp. 1–20. DOI: 10.1111/bjso.12515

Ward, Alan. “Magician in a White Coat.” Science Activities, vol. 14, no. 1, Jan. 1977, p. 6-9. DOI: 10.1080/00368121.1977.9955322

Weisgram, Erica S., and Rebecca S. Bigler. “Girls and Science Careers: The Role of Altruistic Values and Attitudes about Scientific Tasks.” Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, vol. 27, no. 4, Jul. 2006, pp. 326–48, DOI: 10.1016/j.appdev.2006.04.004

“Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering Table 5–1.” National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, www.ncses.nsf.gov/pubs/nsf21321/data-tables. Accessed 4 May 2022.

Yager, Robert E., and Stuart O. Yager. “Changes in Perceptions of Science for Third, Seventh, and Eleventh Grade Students.” Journal of Research in Science Teaching, vol. 22, Apr. 1985, pp. 347–58. DOI: 10.1002/tea.3660220405

Zajonc, Robert B. “Social Facilitation: A Solution is Suggested for an Old Unresolved Social Psycho-logical Problem.” Science, vol. 149, no. 3681, 16 Jul. 1965, pp. 269–74. DOI: 10.1126/science.149.3681.269


Fantastic Four. By James Robinson, illustrated by Chris Samnee, vol. 1, no. 643, Marvel Comics, Apr. 2015. (Fig. 3, right panel)

Hulk Visionaries: Peter David. By Peter David, illustrated by Dale Keown, vol. 8, trade paperback, Marvel Comics, Aug. 2011. (Fig. 1)

Invincible Iron Man. By Brian M. Bendis, illustrated by Mike Deodato Jr., vol. 3, no. 14, Marvel Com-ics, Dec. 2016. (Fig. 3, left panel)

Runaways. By Rowell Rainbow, illustrated by Kris Anka, vol. 5, no. 28, Marvel Comics, Feb. 2020. (Fig. 4, left panel)

X-Men: Phoenix Endsong. By Greg Pak, illustrated by Greg Land, vol. 1, trade paperback, Marvel Comics, Dec. 2005. (Fig. 4, left panel)




How to Cite

Juricevic, I. (2022). With Great Power Comes Gender Diversity: STEM Stereotypes and Marvel Superpowers. REDEN. Revista Española De Estudios Norteamericanos, 4(1), 19–42. https://doi.org/10.37536/reden.2022.4.1839



Special Dossier