Harvard study: Girls don’t see themselves as leaders

Are our gender biases hurting our daughters’ desire to lead? We talk to the study’s author to find out what mothers can do.

Harvard study: Girls don’t see themselves as leaders

Who run the world? Girls!


Women have celebrated major achievements in school, business, and politics in recent years. Female celebrity powerhouses like Beyoncé and Taylor Swift have made it cool for girls to unapologetically own who they are. Politicians like presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley show young girls that even the highest tiers of political power are open to women.

But a new study from Harvard reveals ongoing aversion to female leadership—even by girls and women themselves.

Harvard professor Richard Weissbourd, who runs the Making Caring Common Project, explained to Good Morning America on Tuesday morning, "We have made a lot of progress in terms of gender equality. But we still have a long way to go."



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Among the important—and often troubling—findings from the research of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Making Caring Common:

  • Teen girls face gender biases, specifically in terms of leadership and power. In a pool of almost 20,000 students surveyed, only 8% of girls surveyed preferred female political leaders over men, while it was only 4% for boys. And 36% of boys preferred male business leaders, while only 6% preferred female leaders.
  • Weissbourd explained to Good Morning America that "Girls are facing biases from many sources. They’re facingbiases from teen boys, from some parents, from each other." This new research shows that girls are not supporting one another. The reason for the gender biases they have stem from "highly competitive feelings among girls, girls lacking confidence and self-esteem and projecting that lack of confidence onto other girls, and girls being viewed as too emotionally 'dramatic.'"
  • Even some mothers showed biases toward male leaders, "On average, mothers presented with councils led by boys expressed stronger support than mothers presented with councils led by girls."
  • Recommendations from this study's findings are based on the beliefs that "good intentions are not enough to prevent leadership or other types of biasesand that biases can’t easily or simply be eliminated. Reducing and preventing biases is a practice that we as adults need to model as well as cultivate in children and teens."

Reading the report is frustrating and yet also gives us some specific paths towards action. We want our daughters to be confident and comfortable with taking charge. So what do we do?

We spoke with Professor Weissbourd about his research and asked for some of his tips for addressing the challenge of gender bias from within oneself, and from within our culture—even from a young age:

  • "The key for babies and toddlers – is gender-neutraltoys, or exposing young kids to toys and games that express many differenttypes of gender roles. It’s not being freaked out when little girls act insome classically masculine way, or when little boys act in some more feminineways."
  • "It’s nurturing empathy andappreciation of girls and boys because I do think a lot of the biases we see –a lot of what’s going on with girls – have their roots in misogyny and sexism.So to work with boys at a young age is incredibly important."
  • "Cultivating friendships at young ages between boys andgirl is important."
  • "It always helps for both boys and girls to be in settings where thereare strong women leaders."
  • "Moderating kids TV watching to some extent because some programsare going to be highly gendered."

Weissbourd also elaborated on how we can build up self-esteem and confidence in our young daughters:

"I don’t think this is a small challenge. Girls are bombarded with images of themselves in the media and the culture that are so degrading and objectifying. I try to be very conscious of this. I’ve been trying to be very active about it with my own daughter; promoting her assertiveness. Sometimes parents are quicker to criticize girls if they are arrogant or bossy or dominating than they are boys, and parents have got to check that stuff. They should be encouraging girls’ assertiveness, encouraging girls’ athleticism, helping girls develop the skills that they need to be effective leaders, problem solving, group skills, public speaking—speaking up, even just at the dinner table."

In the study, Weissbourd recommends several crucial steps to better empower our daughters and sons, including being aware of our own gender biases, steering clear of phrases like "boys will be boys," which can reinforce stereotypes and starting conversations with your kids about gender. Read more in 'Leaning Out: Teen Girls and Leadership Biases.'

Weissbourd says doesn't want his recommendations to feel oppressive to parents, "I don’t think parents should feel the need to comment on bias every minute of every day, but I do think it should become a practice, a habit. It’s a big enough issue, and it’s important."

When it comes to registering for baby products, there's one word we love: convertible.

In contrast to items you use for a short period of time, convertible (or multi-use) products are made to grow with your baby… and trust us, that makes them worth their weight in gold.

Convertible items allow you to reap the benefits of your baby registry for years to come—and that's just savvy shopping, mama. Also savvy shopping? Creating your baby registry with Target and enjoying their Year of Benefits registry program for expectant parents. Just by starting your registry, you will get a welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons and samples, two 15% off coupons to complete your registry, and a full year of returns. And Target's newest registry perk, the Year of Exclusive Deals, gives you discounts on essentials for your baby's whole first year when you sign up for Target Circle as well.

If you prioritize value and longevity when creating your registry, here are 10 items you'll love from day one through day 1,000… and beyond!

A crib that can grow through childhood + beyond

Simmons Kids Slumbertime Monterey 4-in-1 Convertible Crib

A crib is a necessity as you plan for life with your baby—you know that already. But what about in a couple of years when they need a toddler bed? Or a few years beyond that when they graduate to a bigger bed? Well, you're in luck: With the right attachments, this bed can be the only one they need until college.


A cozy blanket for snuggles + security

Plush Velboa Baby Blanket I Love You - Cloud Island\u2122 White/Black

Blankets have earned their spot on millions upon millions of registries for good reason: They function as stroller covers or play mats during the early days, then become beloved security items in the toddler years.


A comfy spot for feeding + stories

Baby Relax Addison Swivel Gliding Recliner

During your first months of motherhood, a comfortable gliding chair will be your second home as you spend time feeding and bonding. As your child grows (and mobility makes those snuggles harder to catch), you'll discover a new love for this cozy spot for stories and bedtime snuggles.


Sealy Cozy Rest Extra Firm Crib and Toddler Mattress

Fun fact: A standard crib and toddler bed actually use the same size mattress. That's why it's smart to get a quality crib mattress right out of the gate: One less thing to change up in a few years!


A changing table that doubles as a dresser

Simmons\u00ae Kids Monterey 4 Drawer Dresser with change top

If space is at a premium in your baby's nursery, look for a combination changing table and dresser. That way, you can keep using the dresser long after your little one is potty trained.


A car seat that converts to a booster

Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

The safest place for your child is in the backseat of your car, in either a car seat or (later) booster. But instead of buying a new seat for each phase, you can check off multiple boxes at once by adding a convertible car seat to your registry.


A stroller that accommodates big kids, too

Graco FastAction Jogger LX Stroller

The need for a good stroller doesn't end when your little one learns to walk, so look for a stroller that can accommodate bigger kids, too. We recommend a jogging stroller that allows you to attach an infant car seat and is still perfectly spacious for toddlers.


A place to dine for years to come

Ingenuity SmartClean Trio Elite 3-in-1 High Chair - Slate

From first bites to family dinners around the table, one single high chair can be the solution you need. That is, if you look for a version that adapts into a booster seat when your child is ready for a plate at the table.


A white noise machine + alarm clock in one

Hatch Rest Sound Machine, Night Light & Time-to-Rise

After spending months listening to ambient noise in the womb, white noise remains incredibly comforting for your child. It's nice to have a sound machine that can transition to a time-to-rise clock down the line. By cueing with sounds and colors, these clocks reinforce healthy sleep habits.


A baby carrier that can haul a toddler, too

Infantino Flip 4-in-1 Convertible Carrier

A carrier is a major help when your baby loves being held, but you need use of your hands. But even months or years down the line, you can still get use out of that carrier. To maximize longevity, look for one that can be used with your child facing outward or even carried on your back as they grow.


Enjoy building your registry with Target, mama! The Year of Benefits is calling your name with a Year of Exclusive Deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more! 😉

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Errands and showers are not self-care for moms

Thinking they are is what's burning moms out.

A friend and I bump into each other at Target nearly every time we go. We don't pre-plan this; we must just be on the same paper towel use cycle or something. Really, I think there was a stretch where I saw her at Target five times in a row.

We've turned it into a bit of a running joke. "Yeah," I say sarcastically, "We needed paper towels so you know, I had to come to Target… for two hours of alone time."

She'll laugh and reply, "Oh yes, we were out of… um… paper clips. So here I am, shopping without the kids. Heaven!"

Now don't get me wrong. I adore my trips to Target (and based on the fullness of my cart when I leave, I am pretty sure Target adores my trips there, too).

But my little running joke with my friend is actually a big problem. Because why is the absence of paper towels the thing that prompts me to get a break? And why on earth is buying paper towels considered a break for moms?

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