You may have read two books that have received plenty of press: “Thrive” and “Lean In.” Both addressed the importance of creating space at the boardroom table for females in a leadership role. Programs and organizations like “Girls on the Run,” “Because I am a Girl,” The Girl Guides of Canada and even companies like General Mills (who together with Big Brothers and Big Sisters created the “Go Girls” initiative) promote specific, forward thinking opportunities to include, mentor, support, engage and foster positive body image and the success of women and girls. While we may wish it to be faster, women in politics, business and in positions of power are growing. Yes, it’s about time but there is still significant room for improvement. How can you play a role?
Get together with your favourite networking group and choose to support a charitable agency that promotes and educates women and girls. Women lending a hand to other women will empower women around the world. Through The Leadership Forum, a group located in Caledon Ontario, I have been lucky enough to be involved in an initiative where empowerment is the long – term goal. Can you do the same? “Strength in numbers” as the saying goes, the more women working together toward the common goal of female success, the more likely we are to achieve it.
Steps such as these are important and necessary but true female empowerment starts at birth. Literally. Parents need to read books to their daughters like “The Paper Bag Princess” and “The Princess Knight.” Yes they are “princess” stories but these girls rock! They are empowered Princesses making their own choices and enabling their own future through determination and resolve. Next, we have to educate our daughters. Sounds like a simple concept as we have access to free education in Canada and it’s a great system too. But are we doing well enough? Do we encourage our daughters to strive for success in fields like science and math? Do we encourage “non-traditional” careers in engineering, rocket science or technology? For that matter, why are we still referring to these careers as ‘non-traditional?” Queen Rania, of Jordan (a somewhat traditional and male dominated society) is known for using her position to speak out about the empowerment of girls and women. She states: “When you educate a girl, she becomes a woman who lifts herself and her family out of poverty.” So educate girls and you also empower them to choose WHATEVER direction they wish. If you are going to take the time to open one door, why not open ALL of them.
While educating your daughters, lift them up emotionally, nurture their inner strength and foster in them a spirit of confidence and “can do” ability – that they are capable of anything. Encourage healthy eating and healthy body image and expose them to appropriately sized role models, not the artificial “Barbie” doll airbrushed images that exist in media today. This means closely monitoring their access to social media and taking the time to discuss what they see while there. Do you work for an organization that uses and promotes technology or work independently in that field? If so, perhaps you could volunteer your time and talents to a local community organization that is working to support young women to use social media in a positive way. Help that organization to get their message out into the world.
From a career perspective Moms, it’s time to get real with your girls. By this I mean, establish clear and realistic goals for yourself so that you are modeling SMART goals for your daughters. Women, it’s time we stopped trying to “do it all.” If you are working outside of the home, you likely don’t also have time to be the perfect housekeeper, the chauffeur or the “Martha Stewart” of the kitchen. In trying to be all things to all people you are setting yourself up for failure and sending a message to your girls that they too must strive to multi-task themselves to death. You’re suggesting it isn’t just a career that defines them but their ability to be “perfect mom and wife” too. It’s unrealistic. Admit it. Once you do so, figure out ways for everyone to share in the workload, establish daily routines where everyone contributes to the care and keeping of the house and your daughter will learn that SHE is important, her CONTRIBUTIONS are important but that EVERYONE is responsible for the successful operation of a smooth running home.
If you are working from home or support your family by staying at home, model that not as the “second choice,” “being stuck at home” or that “it doesn’t really count as a job” but treat this too with dignity, value and as having importance. It IS the most important job in the world if it is done with care, consideration and with proper reverence attached to the “value add” you are bringing to your family. Teach your daughter (and let’s face it ladies, each other) to respect and value the contributions of any choice a woman makes in helping this world run smoothly. We need the SAHM’s just as much as the work outside the home mother. Each makes a valuable contribution to our society and each, in a different way, acts as a role model.
So, whether you are a small, solo entrepreneur or working for a large company, join organizations that promote and foster girl empowerment. In your community embrace opportunities to interact with young women, act as role models or contribute to causes that support them. Bring your daughter to work and if you can’t, find places where they can be accommodated. If your daughter wants to be a firefighter, go find a female firefighter and ask her to walk your daughter through the station, talk about the challenges she faced and how she overcame them. If you can contribute time to an organization that promotes girls, do so. We all have different expertise, share some of yours with others. Join in the Junior Achievement “Economics of Staying in School” program and teach it at local elementary schools sending a strong message about staying in school and about women in business. If you belong to any networking or community organizations, use those too as an opportunity to get out into the community fostering and encouraging young women to be successful in whatever way they define it. BE the woman you want your daughter, niece or granddaughter to be. Respect the choice they make – then go out of your way to help them achieve it!
As Owner and Principal partner of “Writing Right For You” Sheralyn is a Communications Strategist – working together with entrepreneurs to maximize profit through effective use of the written word. Looking for web content that works, blog articles that engage or communications strategies that help you get noticed? Contact Sheralyn today. Sheralyn is also the mother of two children now entering the “terrible and terrific teens” and spends her free time volunteering for several non-profit organizations.
Sheralyn Roman B.A., B.Ed.
Writing Right For You
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