What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a question everyone is asked countless times right up until they reach adulthood. Expect a myriad of answers whenever we get the chance to ask girls and young women what they aspire to be when they grow up. Typical responses include a teacher, dancer, doctor or even Beyonce. Sometimes it’s whatever our parents want us to become.
But how often have you encountered a computer programmer, engineer, research scientist, or president? Why be ordinary when young women can be extraordinary?
Representation matters. The power of role models
Regardless of age or background, young women do form ideas of their future careers based on the role models they see. Why? Because seeing is believing. It helps us believe in ourselves that we can achieve it without any limitations. Remember when Kamila Harris was named as the Vice President of the United States? It gave hope to all Black, Indigenous and Women of Colour all over the world. Girls and young women can dream without gender limitations and succeed in any role they choose — even those still non-existent.
So, how can we achieve this? One way is to offer exposure to career paths in various roles, covering different labs, classrooms, board rooms, and even c-suites. Although there’s significant progress for women in the workplace, there’s so much more to do. Minimal representation of women in many senior leadership roles in most industries still occur. If we wish for more remarkable progress, everyone needs to be part of the solution. And by everyone, we mean all genders, especially men, in being a supporter and champion for change.
Mentorship helps to level the playing field
Having supportive mentors who champion their mentees has a massive influence on levelling the playing field. However, we think this kind of mentorship should already be in place before young women even enter the workplace as adults, which is why we reiterate the importance of educating young women during their formative years while still in the classrooms — which is a huge focus at Girls of Impact and why we exist!
Research has shown that those who have graduated from all-girls schools are more self-confident in STEM fields than their counterparts from co-educational schools. The grads had greater confidence in their technical science skills, a better grasp of scientific concepts, and can explain the results of a study well.
Most likely, it is due to girls’ schools not having the same self-limiting beliefs or glass ceilings. Since no one is telling them about specific skills or subjects being “just for boys,” assumptions about what girls like or prefer are removed. Everyone is treated equally and held to the exact expectations. When younger students witness their older counterparts shine in those areas and subjects, it inspires them to develop the confidence to shine and do the same.
The future is female
Young women require mentors who go against stereotypes and embody authority, agency and self-worth. Every young woman should know whatever they wish to be when they grow up, that nothing should ever stand in their way. From a young age, we must welcome girls and their unique talents and capabilities, unbounded by what society dictates them to be.
The world needs to teach girls that the subjects they wish to study or the careers they want to pursue are limitless. Seeing successful women mentors and role models taking up the rightful space of their choosing will inspire young women to face their future with courage and ambition.
The future is indeed female. As such, we must allow girls and young women the freedom to dream and think imaginatively, without any gender limitations, and to help shape their workplaces, communities and the rest of their lives.
So, how do you find a mentor?
Finding mentors is a bit of trial-and-error. There will be some you gel with and some that lead to nowhere. Also, approaching someone and asking, “will you be my mentor?” may feel awkward. Deliberately seeking out and asking for mentorship is scary and requires a lot of courage and vulnerability. The good news is Girls of Impact is making it much easier to find the right mentor to accelerate impact in this world.
Join the Big Sister Impact Academy
If you’re a young woman who wants to get a head start in life and career, sign up for our Big Sister Impact Academy. Connect and network with other ambitious young women in regular mentoring sessions. Plus, have access to brilliant female founders, innovators, change-makers and leaders.
Interested in becoming a mentor to support the next generation of young women? Let’s have a chat. You can express your interest here.