Congratulations to Kathleen Moorman! Kathleen is a political science major and honors student working on some exciting research. Her thesis, “Stereotype Threat and Women in Politics,” looks at whether negative stereotypes about women and public office discourage girls and women from seeing themselves as potential change-makers. In other words, do negative stereotypes create obstacles to women even viewing themselves as potentially successful political candidates?
Kathleen’s research won First Place in the Geography/Geology/History category of the Undergraduate Research Symposium at Kent State University. It has also been accepted to the All Politics is Local undergraduate research conference at Walsh University. Kathleen will present her work at the conference April 22nd.
“Stereotype Threat and Women in Politics”
In order to explore whether young children presume high-ranking political officials to be men, or are susceptible to the stereotype that women cannot or do not hold office, Kathleen went to
second grade classrooms and two separate schools. Both were private schools, but one reports that roughly 95% of its student population is Black, Latino, Asian, Native American, or Pacific American, whereas the second school reported that 5% of its student population came from these groups. In both schools, the class teacher was provided with a script, and following that asked children “to draw a picture of the president in twenty years.” The idea was to allow children to draw how they imagine a president might look, rather than the person who is president now. Teachers noted race and gender of the students who drew each picture on the back of each picture.
Seventy-two students drew pictures for Kathleen’s research. Of those, 59% drew a male president, 36% drew a woman, and 5% were ambiguous. Interestingly, there was a difference here across gender. Of the second grade girls, 36% drew a male president and 59% drew a female, 5% were ambiguous. Girls were also more likely to draw themselves with the president, and more likely to draw the president in a classroom situation. Among boys, 85% drew a male president, 9% a female, and 6% were ambiguous. No boys included the president in a classroom.
Kathleen’s research indicates that the stereotype favoring men seems evident in small children. And, if stereotypes become more engrained as we age, we can expect this to become more engrained over time. Her findings also indicate, though, that at least for young girls, the stereotype is less evident. Does this mean they will not feel excluded from political leadership? Are they more likely to see their own agency and potential? If so, this could mean we see more women running for leadership positions in the future.