Women need female role models

A paper published in the latest issue of Psychology of Women Quarterly uses a two-part study to find that women benefit more than men from having same-gender examples of success. The author's findings suggest that a woman's self-esteem could be enhanced by a female role model with a similar career path. A man's feelings about himself were unaffected by a role model of either gender. Additionally, more than 63 percent of women selected a woman as their academic or occupational model--many of the study's female participants noted that it was important to see someone who illustrates having 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. As stated, female participants were more inspired by female than male role models. 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 their 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," author Dr. Penelope Lockwood concludes.

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This study is published in the March issue of Psychology of Women Quarterly. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article please contact journalnews@bos.blackwellpublishing.net

Psychology of Women Quarterly publishes primarily qualitative and quantitative research with substantive and theoretical merit, along with critical reviews, theoretical articles, and invited book reviews related to the psychology of women and gender. It is published on behalf of the Society for the Psychology of Women, Division 35 of the American Psychological Association.

Penelope Lockwood is a social psychologist specializing in research on social comparison, role models and motivation. She is particularly interested in understanding when people are inspired by examples of successful others, and when such examples simply leave them feeling inferior and demoralized. Dr. Lockwood is available for media questions and interviews.

Blackwell Publishing is the world's leading society publisher, partnering with 665 academic and professional societies. Blackwell publishes over 800 journals and, to date, has published more than 6,000 books, across a wide range of academic, medical, and professional subjects.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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