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Importance of Gender-Matching Role Models

Findings suggest that a woman’s self-esteem could be enhanced by a female role model with a similar career path.

Women benefit more than men from having same-gender examples of success, according to a paper published in a recent issue of Psychology of Women Quarterly. 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% 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 has overcome gender barriers and stereotypes. Roughly 75% 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.

“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. Dr. Lockwood is a social psychologist in the department of psychology at the University of Toronto. She specializes in research in social comparison, role models and motivation.

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