What if Hillary Clinton were elected president? Improving the Math Scores of Girls. Professor. Susan Banducci, Politics, University of Exeter
Hillary Clinton is the presumptive Democratic Party nominee for 2016 US presidential election. No woman has ever won the nomination of a major political party let alone winning the presidency of the US.
What would happen if Clinton were elected? There may be shifts in policy or issue emphasis but we would also expect these shifts to occur with a male candidate elected president. However, she could, being the first woman president, improve the math scores of girls. One effect that would be unique to Clinton being the first female president is that she could help to reverse negative stereotypes of women.
In what is known as stereotype threat effect, girls underperform on math tests because they feel anxious that they might confirm the negative stereotype that girls are not good at math. However, strong role models in counter-stereotypic roles help to reduce the effects of negative stereotypes.
There is actually evidence that something similar happened for black students when Barack Obama was elected president of the US in 2008. As the first black president, Obama’s election defied negative racial stereotypes and should therefore reduce anxiety for black Americans when confronted with a situation where they may confirm negative stereotypes.
In an article appearing in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, David Marx and his co-authors showed that indeed the stereotype threat effect was reduced. Based on a study of 84 black students and 388 white students, they show that the performance gap between white and black students on a standardized test disappeared during the time of Obama’s convention speech when nominated as the Democratic Party candidate and when first elected as president in 2008. The study notes that the performance gap was narrowest when there were positive images of Obama’s achievements in the media.
Might we see a similar effect on negative stereotypes for girls if Clinton were to be elected president? As well as helping to reverse negative stereotypes, Clinton as the first female president may also reduce the stereotype that politics and especially the role of elected political leaders on the global stage is not just a man’s world. Hillary Clinton will act as a role model and demonstrate for girls and women that it is acceptable to be interested in politics, they can make a difference and to be ambitious is acceptable.
Marx, David M., Sei Jin Ko, and Ray A. Friedman. "The “Obama effect”: How a salient role model reduces race-based performance differences. “Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 45.4 (2009): 953-956.