Girls look up to female CEOs but aim to be actresses, study

Teen study: Girls look up to female CEOs but aim to be actresses.
Teen study: Girls look up to female CEOs but aim to be actresses. Photo: Getty Images

Girls look up to female CEOs but aim to be actresses, says a new study.

A recent study released by Oregon State University highlights the conflicting message girls receive from the media about women.

Researcher Elizabeth Daniels said: "Girls know they should look up to female doctors and scientists, but they also know that women in appearance-focused jobs get rewarded by society."

"It is, therefore, reasonable to think they would prefer women in those jobs."

The role of the working woman is often underrepresented in movies and on TV.

For this reason, researchers set out to study the effects of the media on teens' attitudes towards working women.

"We already have a lot of research about the negative effects of sexualised or idealised media images on young women," Daniels said. "But there is very little research about the effects of other types of positive images of women, such as CEOs or military pilots. We wanted to understand how young people respond to those images."

One hundred girls and 76 boys aged 14 to 18 were shown photographs of models Heidi Klum, actress Jennifer Aniston who have appearance based careers and CEO Carly Fiorina and a military pilot Sarah Deal Burrow who have non-appearance based careers.

They were given a brief description of each woman and asked to answer a series of questions about the women.


Questions included: likability, competence and similarity to themselves.

Ninety per cent of boys and 79 per cent of girls rated the pilot and CEO as good role models.

Despite this, researchers found girls rated the women in appearance focused careers higher in likability competence than the pilot and the CEO.

That said, boys ranked the women in non-appearance careers higher in competence and likeability.

"The most striking finding is the disconnect between girls' role model evaluations and their ratings of women's competence," Daniels said.

While many will say "sex sells", Daniels says their findings suggest otherwise.

"Our findings show teens have positive attitudes toward other images of working women, providing evidence that there is support for these other images."

"Does it affect the teens' aspirations of what they can be? Does exposure to a female CEO or military pilot encourage girls to join a computer coding club or take math or science classes? We don't know yet," Daniels said.