According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, less than 30% of the world researchers are women.
This is attributed to long-standing biases and gender stereotypes steering girls and women away from science-related fields.
We, now more than ever, live in a world where there is a strong media culture focussed on image, status and beauty with frequent and false representations of women further strengthening this bias.
Empowering our daughters to become independent and wilful requires conscious effort from everyone immediately involved in their daily lives. SPARK explores some areas of focus to assist our parents, and teachers, in achieving this.
When it comes to gender our girls need to understand that there are no specific sports, jobs, roles or responsibilities solely for one gender.
They need to consider the full scope of sport, school and social activities as an option for them to pursue if they choose to.
This can be achieved by focusing on exposure; what we allow and encourage them to interact with.
This includes parents choosing their daughters’ toys, reading material, TV programmes and experiences wisely. Barbie dolls versus Lego, fairy tales versus learning material, watching TV versus physical activity, shopping versus money management, chores such as cleaning versus handyman work.
What girls are exposed to as well as their level of exposure creates their reality and will determine how they think about the world around them.
A core element in supporting your daughter is first helping them to understand their rights.
Understanding their rights will make them comfortable in expressing themselves and only through expressing themselves can you support them.
Providing support in ‘small’ things will build the confidence to express more important views and preferences.
Start by requesting your daughter’s opinion and letting her participate in making decisions at home, like choosing what to wear or what to cook for supper then actively recognise and celebrate the positive in her decision.
This will create an atmosphere of acceptance and open communication, resulting in expressing herself clearly and confidently.
To help them to learn to defend their decisions and views, which they will ultimately have to do, ask her the question ‘why?’.
Why is that your view? Why do you feel so strongly about this? Why did you choose this over that?
This will help her to analyse and discover the reasons behind her beliefs, opinions and wants as well as provide insight into her way of thinking – useful to any parent.
Telling your daughter the stories and journeys of past and present strong female role models and will, through practical and real-life examples, introduce to her the concept of persistence and power.
Think along the lines of Malala Yousafzai (education), Amelia Earhart (adventure), Marie Curie (invention), Mother Teresa (humanitarianism). Since encouragement can also come from seeing others who are empowered, consider those closer to home; friends and family like an aunt, cousin or friend who is doing extremely well and making a positive impact on the world.
It is also important for you as parents to pay particular attention to how you treat, interact with and represent yourselves and other women.
It is difficult for any parent in today’s world to constantly steer their kids back to real value when we are so regularly overloaded with superficial portrayals of what matters in life; money, status, perfection.
Which is why we, as parents need to influence through example.
Too many girls constantly hear their mothers’ or adult women comment on the need to diet or the requirement to dress and exercise for the sake of impressing others.
Embracing yourself will allow your daughter to embrace and love her body for what it can help her achieve, not purely what it looks like.
Our girls need to be shown that their voices are important and that their strength, work ethic and accomplishments matter more than their appearance.
And that if they are brave enough to try new things, even if it is scary or uncertain, they will achieve what they previously thought or were told they couldn’t.
This is empowerment. This is the core to our daughters becoming unapologetic achievers.
We’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below if you have additional considerations to share.
If you have any questions about what we do at SPARK, please don’t hesitate to contact us.