Guest contributed by Dr. Priscilla G. Sands
As the Head of School at Marlborough School, an all-girls middle and high school, we believe in a community that is free from the barriers and biases that can hold many women back. I am so proud of our graduates, women who break molds and shatter stereotypes while leaving a positive and lasting impact on the world around them.
Here are three key suggestions for talking to the young woman in our lives:
DO tell her that you love the way she approaches challenging problems. Encourage her to stay with it and praise her willingness to keep working. She will develop a thirst and appetite for the puzzle and the question rather than simply the answer. Share examples of times when you struggled but ultimately succeeded in meeting a goal. Remind her that many of the greatest accomplishments take time and diligence to achieve as well as significant failure along the way.
2. DON’T refer to her or other women or girls as bossy. Too often girls are given the message that women in charge are disliked, which discourages their pursuit of leadership opportunities. The most successful women were often told they were bossy along the way. In fact, rid your vocabulary of all gender-loaded words.
DO empower her to take on leadership opportunities where she can and use her voice to also empower others. Women reaching out to other women is a powerful chain of empowerment.
3. DON’T tell her she’s a math person…or a language person…There is no such thing and that’s a fact. This kind of language is limiting. It suggests that a woman is only one thing, that she can’t be good at both math and linguistics and soccer and painting. As a result, she may be hesitant to explore new avenues. In this century she should not be locking into an academic or intellectual binary, but should be nimble and engaged in many fields and ways of thinking.
DO help her learn that abilities are developed through commitment and hard work, two building blocks for accomplishment. Nothing happens if you don’t try. Risk being vulnerable yourself and learn something new together. Take a poetry class, learn a new language, or learn to code. You can share the process of learning (complete with your frustrations) and have the opportunity to demonstrate your own strategies for perseverance. This provides an opportunity to make memories and give both of you the chance to try something new, and have fun doing so.
Dr. Sands earned a B.F.A. from the University of Rhode Island, a Master’s in Liberal Studies from Villanova and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania.
Disclaimer: The opinions and views of our Guest contributors are not necessarily those of theglasshammer.com