Women leadership reservation boosts aspirations of Indian girls
Washington, Jan 13 (ANI): Reservation for women in leadership positions in Indian villages is having a positive role model effect and has changed the way young girls and their parents think about female leadership, a new research has said.
The study, conducted by Northwestern University, focused on the long-term outcomes of a law that reserved leadership positions for women in randomly selected village councils in India.
Results show that affirmative action laws can help create positive role models by opening opportunities that were previously unavailable to a group.
"India is definitely a place where women are constrained in their opportunities," said Lori Beaman, an assistant professor of economics at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, and a faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern.
"This law gave Indian women, at the village level, a chance to demonstrate that they are capable leaders," she said.
The research team collected data in West Bengal between 2006 and 2007 on 8,453 male and female teenagers and their parents in 495 villages.
The law was implemented in the region starting 1998 and from that time a village council spot could have been reserved for a female leader once, twice or never.
In villages with two terms of female leadership, gender gap in parents' aspirations for their children's career and education closed by 25 percent, as compared to villages that never had a female leader.
Similarly, the gender gap in career and education aspirations closed by 32 percent in adolescents.
According to Beaman, the decline in the gender gap is entirely driven by an increase in girls' aspirations, not by a decrease in boys.
In a change of behavior, adolescent girls were more likely to be attending school and spent less time on household chores in the villages that reserved political positions for women.
"There weren't any concurrent changes in education infrastructure or career options for young women during this time," said Beaman.
"The changes in behavior among adolescents can be contributed to the role model effect of the women leaders," she added.
The randomized process in which the government implemented the policy allowed the researchers to cleanly compare survey results of parents and teens in villages with a female leader for one term and two terms versus parents and teens in villages that had never had a female leader.
The positive effect of the exposure to capable female leaders seemed to mitigate against the perception that the female leaders' achievements were not due to merit, Beaman said.
The results will be published in the journal Science. (ANI)
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