Gender bias in children's books with male characters, including male animals, leading the fictional pack was uncovered in a recent study.
The findings of Florida State University researchers are based on a study of nearly 6,000 20th century children's books published from 1900 to 2000.
While previous studies have looked at the representation of male and female characters in children's books, they were often limited in scope.
"We looked at a full century of books," says lead author Prof Janice McCabe, assistant professor of Sociology at Florida State University.
"One thing that surprised us is that females' representations did not consistently improve from 1900 to 2000; in the mid part of the century it was actually more unequal. Books became more male-dominated," she added. Since children's books are a "dominant blueprint of shared cultural values, meanings, and expectations," the authors say the disparity between male and female characters is sending children a message that "women and girls occupy a less important role in society than men or boys."
The study has been published in Gender and Society.