Following on the heels of last week’s blog, A Bright Future for Generation Z Through Positive Messaging, this post delves a bit deeper into the stats behind girls’ self-esteem. Over the last week I’ve read a bunch of studies, including a 2015 study by Bleidorn et al. that looked at how socio-cultural influences may impact girls’ and boys’ self-esteem. The results of this and all the studies - Men generally have higher self-esteem.
Really? Not one study said that our girls are on par with boys despite all of the advancements towards gender equality? Nope. Nada. Seeing it written in black and white and in multiple studies left little room for interpretation (and it was a little bit disappointing to say the least). There are fabulous girls out there who are very strong, confident and self-aware of who they are and what they want to do.
The next question then, why don’t we have more girls that are self-confident? For a country like Britain, the 2015 study by Bleidorn et al. noted a gender divide with females being less self-confident than males due to socio-cultural factors. What is particularly interesting – and what I want to focus on – is that the study also revealed that these gaps tend to decrease throughout early and middle adulthood. Noting this change, there must be something within a country like Britain that enables girls to find their voice. The big question is ‘What is it’?
A 2016 TED Talks dialogue, “Teach girls bravery, not perfection” by Reshma Saujani. centered on the premis that, “we’re raising our girls to be perfect, and we’re raising our boys to be brave….” More specifically, that we generally don’t encourage our girls to take more risks…and we don’t really create an atmosphere to enable them to fail. I think most would agree that risk-taking resulting in success is an excellent confidence booster, but geesh, let them fail? I don’t know about you, but as a mother, this notion goes against my natural instinct to protect my kids.
In reflection, Reshma has a point. Failure does provide an invaluable way to learn about yourself, realizing your strengths, overcoming your weaknesses and through this an appreciation for our inner self-worth. The fact that the self-esteem gap between girls and boys doesn’t start to shrink until they reach early/middle adulthood does gives this notion credibility. Early/middle adulthood would be the time when most are starting to forge their own path, take risks and account for failures.
With this in mind, what if we encouraged girls to forge their own path earlier during childhood and adolescence? What if we stopped placing expectations on girls to act and think a certain way (e.g.: music videos depicting girls as objects)? What if we embraced failures as a vehicle for personal growth and realizing self-worth, rather than shaming and name-calling? Could we close this gap even earlier? Yes, I believe we could. But this requires creating an atmosphere where girls feel confident in taking risks to achieve their dreams, and yes, maybe even endure < and embrace > some failures along the way.
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Blog by: Tess Ackland
Tess is the founder and Director of ON! Juniper, a company created to provide organic and natural bath and beauty products to girls. ON! Juniper currently handmakes and sells lip balms and bath bombs, made with only organic and natural ingredients that are skin-loving. www.onjuniper.com