The Value of Women as Role Models

A study conducted by researchers affiliated with the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology finds that the presence of successful female politicians can play a significant role in boosting the aspirations of young women and impact the educational and economic gender gap.

The study, published in Science, examined 495 villages in the state of West Bengel in India. By law, one third of the positions as village leader were randomly assigned to women and quotas were established so that women would hold a significant portion of the seats on the village councils.

The results showed that in villages where women had not been leaders, there was a large gender gap among parents and children in their educational aspirations. But in villages where a woman had been leader the gender gap in educational aspirations was eliminated.

duffoEsther Duffo, Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics at MIT and a co-author of the study, states, “Seeing women in charge persuaded parents and teens that women can run things, and increased their ambitions. Changing perceptions and giving hope can have an impact on reality.”

In villages where there were no female leaders, boys were 6 percent more likely to be in school and 4 percent more likely to be literate. This gender gap did not exist in villages that had a female leader. The results also showed a reduction in the gender gap for domestic chores in villages that had a woman as leader.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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