The Confidence of Young Women is a Key Area of Focus in the 21st Century
“In December of 1920, Amelia Earhart paid to go on her first plane ride. The experience lasted only 10 minutes, but it changed the direction of her life: Amelia was determined to be a pilot. It did not matter to her that there were only a few women in the field of aviation. Through hard work and challenging conditions, she developed her skills. While other female pilots feared the long journey across the Transatlantic, Amelia’s gutsy determination led her to be the first woman to fly it solo. The confidence she possessed was one of her greatest strengths and led her to set many records.” (The Confidence Gap In Men And Women: Why It Matters And How To Overcome It, 2019).
Amelia’s success in flying was not attributed to her skills alone, but her confidence and the belief that she could do what she set out to achieve. In the early 1900s, it is thought Amelia had to work hard to achieve these goals, given the expectations of women at this time.
It is well documented that the confidence of young girls and women is a key area of focus in the 21st century. The Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report was created following the survey of 10,500 women and girls aged between 10 and 60 from 13 countries around the world. “Women cited growing pressure from the media and other related sources as contributing to the problem, with 77 per cent of Australians blaming ‘unrealistic standards’ set by media and advertising as one of the biggest problems.” Brown (2016).
In many stories of successful women, we learn about their support network, supporters and family. The opportunities and encouragement provided to them by their parents, grandparents, teachers or family friends are significant. Dr Jane Goodall DBE acknowledged in her address at the opening of the refurbished Edna Holmes Centre for Science Laboratories, the significance of her mother in Jane following her dream and going against the advice and expectations of many by venturing into Gombe, Africa, to live with and study chimpanzees.
As a mother of two young girls, and with an awareness of the opportunities, challenges and the influence of social media, I took interest in a book that was recently given to my daughter, Strong is the New Pretty. A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves, by Kate Parker. This book was refreshing to read and provided many examples of girls who have found enjoyment and satisfaction in being authentic and fearless. These girls celebrated their challenges and achievements through going beyond their comfort zone.
Parker (2017), acknowledges, “And now a mother of two young daughters, I try to do the same for my girls. My husband and I encourage loudness, silliness, fearlessness, confidence, strength and individuality…my husband and I aim to celebrate who they are, just as they are.” This book is filled with wonderful quotes and images of girls in action. A few of these quotes are provided below:
“When I first started to surf, I got made fun of all the time. For years, I was the only girl. Every little thing I did differently, the boys would laugh. Pretty soon, though, I started to show them up, and after that, they never made fun of me again. I plan to be a champion in two sports – surf and skate – that have always been predominantly ‘guys only’ worlds”. – Jordyn, age 17.
“The best part of dance is the ability to show the emotion and strength through movement.” – Caroline L, age 15.
“We are a band of sisters. Our strength comes through finding our own voices and being brave enough to use them.” – Fiona, age 18.
“Being a girl does not change anything. It is just a different body. Strength measures how powerful you are even when others doubt you.” – Oriana, age 12.
“I am small, but I have a big voice and I know how to use it.” – Ivy, age 9.
“Strong is building people up, not tearing each other down.” – Lauren J, age 10.
In looking further at books that are available for young women, The Confidence Code for Girls, by Kay, Shipman, Riley and Lawson, is a great book for teenagers in providing stories and anecdotes in being a confident young woman. This book takes the reader through examples of real world dilemmas and inspiring stories of girls who achieved great things beyond their comfort zone.
Our role as parents is to encourage our daughters to learn, investigate, challenge and fail. The involvement in a trip, exchange, school camp, sport or club, provides the opportunity for girls to develop the skills that will assist in navigating their way through life. The co-curricular opportunities offered at St Catherine’s are vast. These programs are designed to provide opportunities for our students to learn through experience in a different environment.
“We do not grow when things are easy, we grow when we face challenges.” – Anonymous.