Study Shows That Female Politicians Can Directly Influence Teenage Girls

Taken from here.

Women in positions of leadership in communities can have a very strong impact on teenage girls, according to a new study. The study, co-authored by MIT Economist Esther Duflo, focused on young women in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal. Based on a survey of roughly 8,000 Indian adolescents and parents, the research paper, appearing this week in Science, notes that having women serve as the leader or orpradhan, of a village council erases the “gender gap” that tends to work in favor of young men.

But the female politicians do need to stay in these leadership for an extended period of time in order for the effects to be measured. In villages with female leaders, the gender gap vanishes not only in terms of expectations, but also concrete results. In places with no female pradhan, boys are 6% more likely to attend school and 4% more likely to be literate. But in places that have had a female pradhan for two terms in office, that gap disappears.

“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,” says Esther Duflo, who is a co-founder of MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). She adds: “Changing perceptions and giving hope can have an impact on reality.”

Well in the U.S., at this rate, teenage girls will just have to keep working hard because it may be a while before we see a woman in the oval office. Though Hillary Clinton is trying. she has initiated the Women in Public Service Project, a program intended to increase the number of women in leadership. In June 2012, the State Department will start an annual summer institute to train women leaders from around the world in cooperation with the so-called Seven Sisters colleges, which include Barnard in New York City, Bryn Mawr in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and Wellesley, in Wellesley, Massachusetts. This summer 40 women from the Middle East and North Africa will go to her alma mater, Wellesley College, to gain skills in public speaking, coalition building, networking and mentorship. “It’s about expanding the pool of talented people to help tackle our biggest problems,” she said.

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