Seeing is Believing: The Impact of Visual Messages

22 Jan

A child is impacted within minutes of seeing an image of a woman in a position of power. The same can be said of a man working as a nurse, or woman as a CEO. This according to behavioral economist Dr. Iris Bohnet of the Harvard Kennedy School and the Women and Public Policy Program. She was interviewed about her work this week while she attends the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland:

One of the most striking piece of data Bohnet shared was the near immediate impact seeing someone working outside gender norms can have on the viewer. The work becomes normalized to the viewer. While she did not speak of classrooms directly, Bohnet’s analysis can influence the way teachers set up their classrooms. Both boys and girls would benefit from seeing female scientists, male caregivers, female athletes, male craftsmen and other roles. We decorate our classrooms with drawings and photos of accomplished individuals and people of influence, such as US presidents or famous entertainers on posters with affirmative statements. “Read!” a poster shouts, as a celebrity holds a book while smiling at the camera. Yet, we educators might be missing an opportunity to project other messages to our students.

What if Mariam Mirzakhani adorned our classroom walls instead?



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