5 Ways To Raise Girls To Be Leaders
By Daniel Schmitz, Legends Report Contributor
It's often said that it's more difficult for girls and women to be in leadership roles, in comparison to boys and men in society.
Have you ever wondered why there are less female leaders in the world than men?
I have a little daughter, and I experience myself just how different girls and boys are seen and treated within society, starting with having specific colours - like blue for boys and pink for girls, and indeed very different kinds of toys.
This is one reason why I appreciate seeing female legends in all different areas of society, and witness the impact they make, Angelina Jolie, Jada Pinkett Smith, Goldie Hawn or Malala Yousafzai are a few examples.
This article published by the Washington Post and based on research from Richard Weissbourd, a Harvard psychologist, recommends 5 ways to break these gender biases and to raise girls to be leaders.
"Weissbourd decided to look at bias as part of the larger goal of helping children learn to be kind. “We were concerned that biases get in the way of people caring about and respecting other people, so our initial study was just looking at biases,” he said. “And one of the striking findings that emerged was gender bias." He was “surprised by the extent of it … how gendered both the boys’ and the girls’ responses were.”
5 Ways To Break Gender Biases
1. Check Your Own Biases
"Why? We all carry biases that are based on gender; throughout our lives we receive daily messages about what is expected of males and females. These biases become ingrained, and it’s often impossible to completely get rid of them. But if we can be more aware of our biases, we have a better chance of counteracting them.
How? Take a hard look at how biases might be affecting your attitudes or actions. Be mindful that the relationships, language and behaviors that come naturally to you may express bias. Think about what conclusions you jump to about what boys or girls should dress like, act like, think about and feel."
2. Engage Your Kids In Making Your Home a Bias-Free Zone
"Why? Beginning at a very young age, kids notice differences between girls and boys that can develop into narrow understandings of gender. Cultivate family practices that widen kids’ sense of gender roles and alert them to bias.
How? Develop routines and habits in your family, with input from your kids, that help to counteract and prevent stereotypes. Build strong, trusting relationships with your children so it’s easier for them to ask you uncomfortable questions. When kids ask about differences, let them know that you appreciate the question, and answer with straightforward, honest language."
3. Help Kids Kick Stereotypes To The Curb
"Why? Kids are often unaware of the gender biases and stereotypes they confront every day. They need to learn from the adults in their lives how to recognize bias in themselves and others, how to talk constructively to others about biases, and how to avoid being influenced by stereotypes.
How? Be prepared to explain to kids why bias is harmful, in ways that they can understand, and give kids strategies for responding to biases and stereotypes that are appropriate for their developmental stage."
4. Don’t Just Let “Boys Be Boys.”
"Why? Too often boys’ demeaning stereotypes and remarks about girls go unchecked. Often both adults’ and kids’ peers don’t know how to intervene when boys make remarks about girls, and often they fear being written off or ridiculed. Yet excusing these behaviors as “boys being boys” sends them the message that those behaviors are okay.
How? Take time to consider how to intervene when boys are demeaning to girls, and step in immediately if you observe or hear these behaviors."
5. Build Girls’ Leadership Skills And Self-Confidence
"Why? Too many girls are dealing with biases about their leadership capacity. Perhaps the best way for girls to counteract their negative images about their own and other girls’ leadership capacity is for them to experience leadership.
How? Expose girls to examples of leadership, and help them develop the skills and confidence they need to become leaders in a wide variety of fields. Too often girls avoid leadership because they don’t feel confident in skills such as public speaking, or because they fear their peers will disapprove. Many girls fear appearing bossy."
Being Aware of Your Thoughts And Behaviour
What stands out in this advice is the impact our own thoughts and behaviours have on our children, how they see themselves, how they see their own worth and potential and how they will live their lives. It also shows that we personally can make a difference, and we can help to reduce theses biases if we become more aware of them in ourselves, and recognise them as such. Then we can change our behaviour, and help our children not to develop these prejudices and stereotypes in the first place.