Gender-matched Role Models Are Important for Women, But Not for Men
A two-part study published in the latest issue of Psychology of Women Quarterly finds that women benefit more than men from having same-gender examples of success.
University of Toronto associate professor Dr. Penelope Lockwood’s findings suggest that a woman’s professional self-esteem could be enhanced by a female role model with a similar career path. The study found that a man’s feelings about himself were unaffected by a role model of either gender. More than 63 percent of the women in the study selected a woman as their academic or occupational model, many noting that it was important for them to see someone who had overcome gender barriers and stereotypes. Roughly 75 percent of men were also more likely to select someone of the same gender as their occupational model. However, men did not report that gender was a deciding or influential factor.
The first of the two studies assessed the impact of gender matched and mismatched career models on self-perception. Individuals were given an article that described a male or female professional who had graduated from the same university as the reader seven years ago and had just recently won an alumni award for outstanding career achievements in the field the reader was planning on working in. They then completed a questionnaire about themselves.
Female participants were more inspired by female role models than male ones. Men were not differentially affected by the gender of the model. In the second study, female and male participants were asked to describe a role model that inspired them and say if that model’s gender affected their choice. Women were more likely to select women and to say that the role model’s gender was significant.
“Female role models may not only be a useful example for women who are attempting to determine their potential for future achievement, they also may provide a means of undermining stereotypes that might otherwise threaten their career performance,” Lockwood concludes.
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