Role Model Effect and Girls of Color: Building the Next Generation of Leaders

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The Ohio State University

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In this research project, I examine the significance of diversity in role models for girls of color. This research looks at the relationship between role models and girls of color. The phrase girls of color refers to any girl who identifies racially beyond the category of white. Existing research chronicling young girls' experiences focuses largely on girls who are white, middle class, and suburban. This is not always explicitly mentioned, but a lack of intersectionality in the data about young girls and role model behaviors suggest that all girls share similar experiences and share similar reactions to role models regardless of race and gender. I argue that the presence of role models that align closely with girls' own identities matters for creating possibilities for leadership in their own lives. I argue that shared demographic markers are essential in the selection process for girls of color. I also explore the question of social distance. Do girls of color need to interact face to face with role models to find that they positively impact their lives? "You can't be what you can't see" is a common phrase used when talking about role models and young girls. Several after school programs push this narrative relating solely to gender, but I argue that it has implications for race as well. In working with Dr. Wendy Smooth and Dr. Elaine Richardson on their research project entitled, "Girls of Color as Social Change Agents," I am able to draw upon data from focus groups with girls of color ages 8-14 years of age from across the city of Columbus. I utilize the words of girls of color to build an understanding of their attitudes on role models in developing their leadership behaviors. Focusing on the next generation of leaders has always been a priority, but I intend to find ways to make it so that young women of color will have those same leadership foundations that set them up for a successful future.



girls of color, role model, shared demographic markers, leadership, community leaders