Supporting Girls as Leaders

Posted by Maggie in on Mon 06/27/2016 10:25

Written by Renee Parks, Program Director

Several weeks ago, I viewed this video from MullenLowe London. In it, children were asked to draw a firefighter, a surgeon and a fighter pilot – and 61 pictures were drawn of men and only 5 of women. Whoa! The film shares how gender stereotypes are shaped between ages 5-7 – and shows how young school children have already defined career opportunities by gender (man or woman).

In addition, research from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and its Making Caring Common project found teen boys, teen girls, and parents have gender biases/prejudices against girls and women as leaders. So, not only are young people – girls unconsciously limiting their career dreams, girls are also dealing with biases about their leadership capacity.

Here at Girls on the Run St. Louis, we envision a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams. As caregivers and mentors, how can we curb and prevent gender stereotypes and bias, which undercuts our girls – and all young people – activating their full potential? An article by Amy Joyce, “Are you holding your own daughter back? Here are 5 ways to raise girls to be leaders” further summarizes Making Caring Common gender bias research and gives the how, why and tangible ways caregivers can curb gender bias. One of ways listed is to build girls’ leadership skills and self-confidence. This further impresses the need and importance for programs like Girls on the Run and Heart & Sole, which provides the space for girls to develop key skills (team-building, giving and receiving feedback, social and emotional awareness and skills) and confidence as noted by our local evaluation.