Something is going on with girls today.
If we move beyond simple platitudes about young people being the future and look at the decisions girls are actually making, we see that far too many of them are opting out. At a time when our nation needs all the drive and brainpower it can muster – when we need girls to imagine their grown up selves as someday leading a boardroom, or programming the next killer app, or heading up a biomedical research team – something is stopping them.
That “something” has much do with a cycle of discouragement that leads to girls backing down from their aspirations. They’re opting out of activities they once loved. Some of them are even shying away from raising their hands in class.
What is happening? What is so discouraging for girls today?
The short answer is unsupportive environments. For girls, negative influences abound, including peer pressure not to stand out, a lack of role models and mentors, unhealthy and unattainable media images about beauty, and the bullying mentality of peers.
It’s the perfect storm. An unsupportive environment gives a girl discouraging messages starting in grade school, and continuing for the rest of her life. If this goes unchecked, millions of girls will never realize their full leadership potential. They’ll opt out of pursuing their ambitions and never dare to believe in their own potential.
Research bears out the magnitude of the problem. A recent study by the Girl Scout Research Institute shows that 61 percent of girls are either ambivalent about leadership or say it’s not important to them at all. Of the 39 percent of girls who aren’t disaffected, only one in five believes she herself has what it takes to lead.
What a waste of talent. There are girls in our community and across the country who have the brains and the talent to discover a cure for cancer or Alzheimer’s disease or AIDS. They have it within them to launch the next great tech startup that will make us more efficient and create thousands of jobs in the process.
If only they don’t opt out before they get there.
We can’t afford to let that happen – as parents, as citizens of our community, as a nation. If we invest in girls now, the payoff for our community and our country will be tremendous.
We at Girl Scouts have been in the business of helping girls find the leader within for a hundred years now. In honor of our centennial, we have launched ToGetHerThere, a call to action for all of us to be part of the solution—of getting girls to stick with it and realize their full leadership potential.
Your involvement can be as easy as learning more about the issues and taking our pledge at ToGetHerThere.org, as meaningful as volunteering with organizations that support girls, or as profound as mentoring a girl and helping her to see her possibilities in life. I can assure you that at GSCI, we always have room for one more troop leader or adult volunteer.
In whatever way you chose to get involved, you’re creating an environment that supports successful futures for girls. The only thing this requires is a sincere desire to make sure every girl reaches her potential.
Which will be a win for all of us. However you choose to participate, I’m asking you to join the ToGetHerThere cause campaign today – because when a girl succeeds, so does society.