What Would a ‘President Hillary Clinton’ Mean for Young Girls in America?
Girls considering a future in politics might not be more inclined to pursue that career path even if Hillary Clinton becomes the first woman to win the presidency, a new study says.
The Girls Scouts of America found that girls, even at younger ages, recognized media biases against female candidates and the public perception that women are less capable of holding office than men.
That impacted how girls thought about politics as a possible future career, according to Jean Sinzdak, associate director of the Center for American Women and Politics at the Eagleton Institute at Rutgers University.
If Clinton wins the presidency, Sinzdak said it will be a huge moment for girls to have someone who looks like them in the Oval Office and will make a huge statement for them.
On the flip side, Sinzdak pointed out, "There's been so much negativity and so many things said about women, they pick up on these messages all the time. They'll see the negativity and they'll understand that sort of leadership doesn't come without paying a price for it."
If Clinton loses the presidency, Sinzdak thinks it will discourage some and galvanize others.
"If she loses what does that mean? Can women still never get there, can they never get to that leadership role?" Sinzdak added, "I think that will fire some people up, but I think it's a concern. It's worrisome, and I think it will not be a good message for girls to watch her lose, unfortunately."
Peer leadership is very important in helping change perceptions when it comes to doubting girls' abilities and instilling confidence, according to Sinzdak. She suggested adults, parents and others who are in contact with children on a regular basis to start conversations.
"They can call out gender bias as they see it in this election. This is obviously one of the most important teaching moments of our time in terms of uncovering gender bias, so this is a good opportunity to have conversations with kids and then really encourage them, and hopefully that will get more girls interested in politics and thinking they can do it," said Sinzdak.
She noted a project of the Eagleton Institute, Teach a Girl To Lead, offers numerous resources for talking to kids about women's public leadership.
"Girls need to be inspired, but boys also need to grow up seeing women's leadership as a normal thing," Sinzdak said.
Another very effective tool Sinzdak said is inviting elected women leaders speak to children at schools and youth groups in the communities they serve.