We have opened the eyes of young girls to real possibilities, but we have more work to do so they fully see and embrace their potentials.
So much is being said about the indispensable need for equality between girls and boys in terms of academic opportunities and career achievements. No doubt this is a cause worthy of sustained action. In this article, however, I would like to use the term balance as a naturally affirming mechanism of gender interaction as we tread our way forward.
The celebration of International Women’s Day this month brings to the forefront of the unmistakable drive for gender parity and female empowerment. The movement to advance the cause of women and girls is ever compounding and progressing but it is worthy to note how it unfolds. It does not proceed on a linear flow. Instead, it is a journey of ups and downs.
One might ask, what factors contribute to the highs and lows? More importantly, what will carry the process through in between those two points?
Instead of looking at it from a global perspective or in the sense of institutional interventions, I would like to explore factors that matter to individuals – every little girl that is out there.
Some questions are relevant to the subject. To what extent does society allow girls to dream differently? Further, how does it invite, encourage, and celebrate the expanding role of women across fields? In what way do we enable a better outcome for girls?
I would argue that it begins with the right mental training. This we can and must handle from the earliest onset. A training on perspective.
A remarkable thing happens when girls learn that gender stereotypes are just that – old ways of categorizing roles, skills, and abilities – the kind of role assignment that has nothing to do with individual will and determination. They will discover that dreams are not gender-biased and that the field of opportunities is truly wide open if they set out to explore it.
This is the great power of the growth or learning mindset. It is flexible, dynamic and constantly open to improvement.
If girls grow with this type of perspective and mental habit, they:
• Take risks
• Are not afraid to try new things
• Are okay with not being perfect
• Appreciate small strides
• Acknowledge both their strengths and weaknesses
• Accept responsibility for their own decisions
• Embrace mistakes and learn from them
• Look at setbacks as constructive feedback
• Develop the habit of constant learning
• Feel confident about their ability to break new ground
• Perform with high standards
• Connect better with other people
• Welcome change and challenges
• See themselves as a work in progress
This mental attitude is so powerful that it could rewrite the narrative of girls’ ambitions. We can look at it as a sort of magical wand that transforms self-doubt into the confidence to self-actualize. The growth perspective allows girls to embrace the process that has to take place between confusion and clarity, between mediocrity and mastery, between limiting beliefs and limitless vision.
Mentorship and Support
Parents and educators play a vital role in raising growth-oriented girls. Mind-setting is one of those things that is best preached through practice, through a careful and consistent demonstration of habits and behavior.
Exposing young girls to role models for daring and dreaming differently; to women who were met with obstacles but found their way around them; to trailblazers and pioneers in fields traditionally dominated by men – these leave profound imprints on girls’ mental picture of what’s possible.
Add to this the support of male peers and friends who are themselves equally enlightened by a flexible and accepting mindset. Fathers, brothers, peers create powerful signals of encouragement to young girls.
This cause is truly collective although real empowerment is a deeply personal experience. Not even society’s encouragement is as strong as girls generating their own power at will and by belief. This is independent strength. This is rejection-proof. When all else fails, the mind matters.
Let us tune our girls to see the glass as full, if only with possibilities that are yet to be – realities that they themselves will create in harmonious balance with the other half of the universe.