You Can’t Be What You Can’t See

You can’t be what you can’t see.” – Marie Wilson

The need for more positive role models for young girls is not exactly news to us here at SheHeroes. In fact, you could say that need is the biggest part of why SheHeroes came to be in the first place. Which is why when see studies that show, in black and white, the impact positive women role models can have on girls, we want to share it.

A recent study co-authored by MIT economist Esther Duflo, was published in Science Magazine. The studied looked at families with children ages 11 – 15 in 495 villages in the West Bengal Region in India where quotas for female representation in politics have been set in place since 1993. The study examined the differences in attitude towards education and achievement in these areas against areas where there are no female leaders.

In the areas where female leaders are a normal part of the local government the study found that parents had the exact same educational expectations for their daughters as they did with their sons. The girls in these areas girls are 25% more likely to achieve the same level of educational as their male peers. They also found that parents of girl to have his in these areas are 25% more likely to have higher education goals for their daughters than in other areas.

This was in huge contrast to the areas where men hold all the local government positions. In those areas the study found parents are 45% less likely to want their daughters to graduate. And the girls themselves were 32% less likely to want to complete their education at all.

Is your SheHero exposed to female role models in power? My own SheHero is pictured here with California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

"We think this is due to a role-model effect: Seeing women in charge persuaded parents and teens that women can run things, and increased their ambitions," Duflo, a co-founder of MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), said in the news release. "Changing perceptions and giving hope can have an impact on reality."

In a handful of European countries gender quotas are not only commonplace in politics but on corporate boards as well. Here in the United States it’s still met with a heavy resistance.

But studies like this one show that in areas where gender quotas are in place, over time (in the case here close to twenty years) they can work in changing the attitudes of not just girls themselves, but families in general.

What do YOU think? Would gender quotas in politics, corporate boards and in areas of STEM help or change the attitudes of the next generation of SheHeroes? And how do you expose your SheHeroes (and Heroes) to positive female role models?

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