“Run like a girl.”
“Throw like a girl.”
Show how girls’ impressions of themselves change when they hit puberty really brings home the lack of confidence that some young women have in their abilities.
Who is to blame for this? Men? Women? Society? Certainly not the girls themselves.
Changing society is a pretty big task, requiring a fundamental shift in the (largely unconscious) prejudices that many of us grow up with. Having said that, there are ways we can begin to positively influence the minds of young women. One of these is mentoring and nurturing.
Girls have too few real role models
Women are under-represented at the highest levels in most industries. Decision makers, influencers, editors, politicians – all these roles are dominated by men. This is not only worrying from a business perspective, but also because of the message it sends girls and women around the world: this is a man’s job.
It doesn’t help that women who do make it to senior positions in the public eye are held to often impossible standards and derided publicly the minute something goes wrong. Think Helena Costa, the Portuguese football manager, or Maria Miller, the former culture secretary.
So, perhaps we’re short of female role models in business, sport and politics – but what about our female celebrities? Surely there are still some role models out there? It’s true that some celebrities set a good example, inspiring and encouraging the younger generation, but in an industry that judges women largely on their appearance, these should not be the only role models our girls have.
We’ve heard all this before.
And this is particularly acute among girls in low-income communities, who had few role models in their own networks. If you can’t see any women doing a job you aspire to, then it’s very difficult to believe that you can get there yourself.
Deeper conversations challenge stereotypes and widen aspirations.
So, what’s the solution?
More role models! And not just in the media, either. Evidence and experience show that it is personal relationships and deeper conversations that really make an impact.
Girls need role models they can relate to. Girls need girls.
It’s easy to look at the gender inequality issue as an insurmountable problem, but by sharing our experiences, expertise and passion with the next generation of women leaders, we can take steps towards a more diverse, balanced working world.