The Surprising Reason Girls Aren't Learning to be Leaders

A Harvard Educational School study found that girls tend not to support other young women, saying they feel threatened by their successes.
3:51 | 07/28/15

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Transcript for The Surprising Reason Girls Aren't Learning to be Leaders
I'm here for a "Gma" parenting alert from a startling new study that finds girls are not learning to be leaders and it's because of gender bias. What's most surprising, the people holding these girls back, "Nightline" anchor juju Chang has the details. ? Reporter: Beyonce empowering girls running the world. In many ways it's true for the last few decades women have been breaking professional barriers. But this morning, a report by Harvard's educational school revealing there is a hidden barrier your teen girls are running up against. Girls are facing biases from many source, they're facing biases from teen boy, from some parents, from each other. Reporter: The startling results these biases could be holding girls back from succeeding. We have made a lot of progress in terms of gender equality but we still have a long way to go. Reporter: The study of 20,000 students showing only 8% of teen girls preferred female political leaders. I expected more. Males have always led so I guess we're kind of used to it. Right now it seems to be mostly a male dominated sphere. Reporter: What's more surprising even some mothers appearing to be biased supporting school councils more led by boys. The report revealing girls tend not to support other young women saying they feel threatened by their successes in school perhaps acting instead like the plastics in "Mean girls." It's our burning boo. We cut out girls' pictures from the yearbook. Reporter: She believes girls need to work collectively to fight biases. Emphasizing girl solidarity is an important message. Reporter: For "Good morning America," juju Chang, ABC news, New York. Thanks to juju for that. I'm here with Rachel Simmons author of "Odd girl out." Girls holding girls back. Moms holding girls back? It's amazing. But it's not that surprising because even in this day and age we've given girls every opportunity but our attitudes still have to change. We're still giving girls messages to look at each other as threats. I mean think about all the media images of "Mean girls" and catfighting and so girls are not looking at each other as people to support and they're also feeling so insecure about how they look. Think about instagram and social media. They're feeling like I'm not as pretty as the next girl so they're not supporting each other. The first time you see someone delike one of your instagrams it sets off all kinds of -- Exactly. How do you break these patterns especially for moms? I think one of the things we have to remember about moms is that they grew up with a different set of messages and also not dup. They know girls who are outspoken and with who are seen as aggressive will probably suffer for it so they may be worried about their daughters but I think that there's a lot that parents can do. It's not jaws about what girls should do. Research shows that chores can be distributed in very gendered ways. That enmoos we tell boys to mow the lawn and girls do the dishes. Change it up at home. A big thing parents can do. Let boys do caregiving. Beliefs and attitudes start early and moorptss can change it early and quickly in the home. Another thing, change the way we talk to our kids. If you is Ang outspoken girl do you call her bossy or say I'm so glad you spoke up. If you have guys at home who talk about doing things like a girl as if that's a weak thing to do, we've got to say, knock it off. That's not the way to talk. We've got to be checking ourselves all the time. Totally. We all have our own biases. This is what I do for a living but I can tell you I have a 3-year-old daughter and when she doesn't want to wear a dress I get bummed out. I got to deal with my own stuff. Every parent has to look at their own bias, what toys are we buying for their kids. Are we buying the girls makeup kits and giboys science kits? It's okay to do it but change it up a bit.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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