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A Study Reveals That Female Students Are More Likely To Choose A Field That Their Role Models Have Been Successful In. We Like Where This Is Going

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As kids, we’ve all had at least one thing in common growing up and that is having an idol we’ve all looked up to. Now, I am not saying the choice of role model was always good, but hey, we had one and often they inspired us to do better. Be it our own parents, a teacher, a comic book superhero or in my case, a bunch of  different authors – and my inspiration ranged from Virginia Woolf to Maya Angelou – depending on who I was reading at that time. And one of the major reasons I’ve felt drawn to such literary marvels, and eventually ended up in a similar field, is because as a child I was always exposed to a lot of books and reading, all of which has paid off pretty damn well for me, my parents and Amazon. Actually especially Amazon who sneakily tries to recommend books to me, all the freaking time.

And seems like this parental approach wasn’t just successful with me but is also now verified by a study, that has revealed how female students are more likely to study the subjects they’ve seen other successful women choose. As per an experiment with undergraduates studying introductory economics classes at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in the USA, it was found out that women who have been exposed to powerful and successful role models while growing up, will often feel inspired to follow their educational path in life.

The study that was published in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, was based on research where they invited two role models associated with two current female economics majors to talk to the students about how their choice of major was instrumental in their success. And the fact that the ones who engaged with these role models enrolled for further economics classes in large numbers as opposed to those who did not have any such engagement with a role model, was pretty telling of how our minds are influenced by those we look up to.

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The co-author of the report, Associate Professor Danila Serra said, “Our results show that role model intervention had a significant impact on all outcomes for female students. There is strong evidence of the impact of female role models on female students moving into fields of study in which men are traditionally over-represented, and that the encounters served as an inspiration.”

Where as, another co-author for the report, Dr Catherine Porter said, “Due to historical gender imbalances in some subjects, such as economics, it is difficult for young women to come into direct contact with successful women who have majored in these fields and who can inspire them to do the same.” And considering how impressionable our mind still is while we’re in school and college, the fact that a negative or a positive role model can have such an impact on us is quite understandable.

She also spoke about how, “Our research shows that the long-term goal of moving towards gender parity in the economics profession at all levels could be achieved simply and at a relatively low cost by exposing students enrolled in principles classes to successful and inspiring alumnae.” And we think, this approach shouldn’t just be limited to pushing women in fields of economics but also in every other direction, to inspire them to pursue higher studies and aim bigger in life. And as women turn up to represent more fields, they could be the inspiring the next generation of female leaders.

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