Girls are often caught up in a web of confusion surrounded by status quo definitions of who and what they should be. Strong women rise above engraved definitions and challenge the status quo.
Some may not reach goals they aspire to, yet this does not fall in the ‘boxed’ definition of failure. It is about being brave enough to counter the challenge. Women tend to focus on positions and careers that they know they will excel in, which limits their vision. That is an avoidance of risk or failure. Smile, play safe and get the straight As. Stay closeted in a safely defined zone.
Boys are taught to rough it up, climb and jump away. When they become adults men keep taking the risks and rising to challenges, asking for a raise or a date. They get rewarded. So in essence, we raise girls to venture to perfection and boys are taught bravery.
There are many reasons why girls need to be taught bravery. In an annual Vancouver conference, Reshma Saujani shared a powerful vision in a talk “Teaching Girls Bravery, Not Perfection“. She cited research conducted on fifth graders by Carol Dweck, a psychologist. The findings revealed that intelligent girls gave up quickly on a difficult assignment. Boys with high IQs related to the difficult material as a challenge and increased their effort. Girls who outperformed boys in every subject not because of their ability, but because of their manner in approaching challenges.
A Hewlett-Packard report indicated that men applied for jobs even if they only met 60% of qualifications. Women would not attempt unless they were fully qualified. This report clearly shows that women lack confidence.
According to Reshma Saujani, it was evidence that women are socialized towards aspiring to perfectionism, making them overcautious. They tend to take fewer risks. There is massive expansion in the technology and computing industries, yet women are being left behind as they have been socialized to reach perfectionism.
The examples of girls achieving by learning to be brave in supportive networks are massive. Girls who have been socialized to imperfection keep trying. They learn perseverance. They reach their goals.
Here are some ways to help girls and women gain confidence and display bravery:
- Girls need to confront the notions engraved of female fragility. The media and societal views must be challenged that represent assertive women as destructive or unfeminine.
- Celebrate accomplishments of competent women.
- Classes for child rearing would promote approaches that are not limited to gender stereotyping.
- Ask girls what toys they would prefer. They may want a truck instead of a doll, or a chemistry set instead of a jewelry box.
- Girls need to learn skills defend themselves and make points without apology.
- Girls have the right to express themselves with originality and enthusiasm.
- Decision making needs to be shared with girls in a home and at school. Girls need to be shown that their voices impact their lives and the lives of others.
- Equal participation of girls need to be a requisite in all youth and public forums.
- Girls reserve the rights to strive freely, take risks and take pride in successes.
- There should be no acceptance of, “I can’t” or “I won’t.” Help girls with confidence to say they will try.
- Girls should be given platforms to speak without being interrupted .
- Avoid the notion of ‘rescuing’ girls. Encourage them to be imperfect, to pursue goals, to make mistakes, to get disheveled and dirty.
- Girls must accept and appreciate their bodies.They must be taught beauty comes in all forms, shapes, colors,and sizes. Encourage focus on strength, flexibility and health.
- Enable them to become critical of the media, taking into account the portrayals of women and girls in commercial songs, movies, and television. Question portrayals of how female characters are judged.
- Applaud girls for successes, efforts and skills. Keep praising them and showering them with confidence.
- Girls have the right to have confidence in themselves and to be safe in the world. They should let off steam by punching pillows or yell out or visualizing and relaxing. Offer self-defense training and sports to promote strength.
- Girls need to be encouraged to join in unison to improve neighborhoods and schools and every setting they feel unsafe in.
- Girls need preparation to take ventures of interesting work towards economic independence.
- Girls need an introduction to women role models who are able to balance work, volunteering, family and personal life.
- Provide girls with an opportunity to explore roles reserved primarily for boys, like carpentry, holding snakes or constructing an electrical circuit.
- The myth of ‘Prince Charming’ coming to the rescue must be debunked.
- Discuss family financials openly with girls included.
Spread the word to sisters, nieces, colleagues and employees that girls need to be comfortably imperfect. Teaching girls imperfection will build a bravery and heal the world, making it a better place for all.