Positive Parenting: Girls’ Leadership Challenges

Research suggests the next generation of young female leaders may still have to battle to get to the top, just because they are women.

Today in positive parenting, we look at a surprising new study by Harvard University.

Women have made great strides over the past decade in politics, entertainment, business and law.

But Rick Weissbourd, with the Harvard Graduate School of Education says despite the gains, a generation of young women may still face gender bias if they aspire to lead.

“I just don’t know if it’s generations and generations of conditioning,” he says. “We’re still human and we don’t address those issues early on like we should.”

In a recent survey of 20 thousand middle and high school students, 56 percent of the boys and 69 percent of the girls said gender doesn’t matter for political leadership.

Social scientists say that part’s encouraging.

“But we still have light years to go in terms of some of this gender-pigeon holing that we’re doing.” Weissbourd says.

“For example, girls were more likely to view females as better leaders in traditionally female professions, like child care directors. Forty-nine percent of the girls saw women as more capable in a childcare leadership role.

“I just think it’s a cultural norm and tradition that people are used to,” Weissbourd says.

According to Weissbourd, parents can help by encouraging girls to take on leadership roles at school and at home by being mindful of gender stereotypes and not limiting girls to caregiving chores.

“You know one of the things we very concretely advocate for is the chore wheel where you know the chores rotate in the house independent of gender, you’re just doing the wheel,” Weissbourd says.

Researchers say they also found implicit bias against girls.

In a hypothetical scenario, students were least likely to give more power to the student council when it was led by girls.

Focus groups showed that girls were also less likely to vote for other girls.

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