Leaning Out ~ Teen Girls and Leadership Biases

flickr photo by photosavvy http://flickr.com/photos/photosavvy/2511048859 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

flickr photo by photosavvy http://flickr.com/photos/photosavvy/2511048859 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

From Harvard’s Making Caring Common Project:

“Are teen girls and young women poised to become our nation’s leaders? The pathways to leadership for girls have never been clearer or brighter. Girls have made astounding progress in school and work over the last decade and women now occupy more leadership positions in key private and public institutions—including Congress—than at any point in our nation’s history. Yet the gender gap persists: male leaders still far outnumber women leaders in many felds, including business and politics—only 2 of the top 20 presidential candidates in 2016, for example, are women.

Our research suggests that the teen girls who are key to closing the gender gap appear to face an age-old and powerful barrier: gender bias, and specifically biases about their leadership. According to our findings, many teen boys and teen girls appear to have biases against girls and many women leaders and teens perceive their peers as biased against female leaders. Further, our research suggests that some mothers prefer teen boys over teen girls as leaders.”

  1. Many Boys and Girls Expressed Bias Against Girls as Leaders in Powerful Professions: • When asked who is more effective in specifc professions, almost a quarter of teen girls—23%— preferred male over female political leaders while only 8% of girls preferred female political leaders, with 69% reporting no difference in preference.
  1. Students Were Least Likely to Support Granting More Power to White Girls as Council Leaders: • In response to the scenario intended to detect implicit biases3, students were least likely to support giving more power to the student council when it was led by white girls and most likely to support giving more power when it was led by white boys.

3. White Girls Appear to be Biased Against Other White Girls as Leaders: The gap between white boys and white girls appears to be largely explained by the fact that white girls tended not to support giving power to white girls. White girls presented with boy-led councils expressed higher average support for the council than white girls presented with girl-led councils. Further, when we looked at what types of councils students tended to support in each school, we found that in 61% of our schools, white girls’ average level of support was higher for councils led by white males than those led by white females. These fndings mirror studies of women in the workplace. A 2013 Gallup poll found, for example, that 35% of all respondents would prefer to have a male boss while only 23% of respondents would prefer to have a female boss, with 41% reporting no preference.”

Read the entire report here.

Writing about the report in Atlantic MagazineRandye Hoder writes:

“The extent of these findings surprised me,” said Richard Weissbourd, a psychologist at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and the co-director of the Making Caring Common Project, which conducted the study during the 2014-15 school year. “People see the gains that women have made and they just assume that the next generation of girls is going to achieve gender equality. But these biases are still pervasive and insidious.”  Read the entire Atlantic piece here. 


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