Study Finds Women Role Models Produce Educational Gains for Young Girls

A study published in the January 12 issue of the journal Science finds that the use of gender quotas for public offices can have a positive impact on the educational aspirations and achievements of young girls who live in the communities where they have women role models. The study examined 500 villages in India, a third of which were required by law of have a woman on the village council. The study found that in the villages with a female leader, the gender gap in educational aspirations was significantly reduced for parents and young women. Furthermore, the study found that girls in villages with a women leader scored higher, on average, on school examinations than girls in villages where there was no requirement that a woman sit on the village council.

Rohini Pande

Coauthors of the study include Lori A. Beaman, an assistant professor of economics at Northwestern University, Esther Duflo, the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics at MIT, Rohini Pande, the Mohammed Kamal Professor of Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and Petia Topalova of the International Monetary Fund.

The authors conclude, “These results show that laws can help create role models by opening opportunities that were previously unavailable to a group. Our study shows that, in the Indian context, the positive effect of exposure to a female leader dominated any possible backlash, probably because it gave women a chance to demonstrate that they are capable leaders. And, perhaps most importantly, our study establishes that the role model effect reaches beyond the realm of aspirations into the concrete, with real educational impacts.”

Filed Under: Research/Study


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