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Tess Ackland

“It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.” – Madeline Albright


Last week’s blog looked at the importance of being self-confident, and offered some ways to increase self-confidence within girls. This week, in the second half of our discussion on Building Blocks for Confident, Assertive Girls, the blog looks at the importance of an assertive voice and what we can do to cultivate it within girls.

As always, please do share, like and comment. This topic is important enough to keep the conversation going!


Teaching Girls to be Assertive and Find Their Voice

(Part 2 of Part 2)

The Cambridge Dictionary defines assertive as, “Someone who…behaves confidently and is not frightened to say what they want or believe.”[1] Since the 19th century women’s voices have been growing, and with it, a pop culture reflecting women with more confident and powerful voices. There are however some lingering challenges. For example, although women have made inroads towards gaining equality, a pay gap still exists. Or what about the fact that in 2014 women claimed only 30% of speaking roles in film and only 12% of films were told from a women’s perspective?[2]

Bottom line, females still hold less influence and authority within mainstream pop culture and whether we like it or not, this undoubtedly filters into girls’ psyche. The solution? Well, there are many. This article doesn’t offer all the answers. What it does suggest are some tools that girls can easily adapt in order to build a confident voice and enable them to say what they believe or want with authority.

Developing an assertive voice is surprisingly simple and quite straightforward. That said, it does require a conscious effort to assess actions, and when offering advice, finding those encouraging and helpful words in order to not appear judgemental. No doubt this can be challenging! Helping girls to develop an assertive voice; however, is important and in my mind, definitely worth it! With this in mind, we can help develop an assertive voice by teaching them to:

  1. stop saying ‘I’m sorry’ for everything. The Ban Bossy campaign found that “many girls start sentences with apologies (“I’m not sure this is right, but...”)
  2. shake someone’s hand upon meeting. Boys are generally taught this, but girls often are not.
  3. look someone in the eye when speaking.
  4. exhibit confidence through upright body language - sitting up straight, standing tall with head held high.
  5. speak with conviction; don’t weaken your voice. The Ban Bossy campaign found that girls often, “turn factual sentences into questions,…cock their heads, play with their hair, or cover their mouths while speaking, using phrases like ‘kind of’ and ‘sort of’…”
  6. take risks and learn from successes and failures. A 2015 OECD report titled, The ABC of Gender Equality in Education: Aptitude, Behaviour, Confidence reports the value of risk-taking in building self-confidence. (I’ve also written about this in past blogs.)
  7. when speaking use first pronoun words to show an ownership of thoughts and feelings.
  8. say ‘no’ when what you are being asked to do it doesn’t feel right or doesn’t uphold your values.  

Not only are these points easy to integrate into our children’s daily lives, but it is also equally if not more important to realise the impact of role models on girls’ behaviour. I’m not talking about celebrities. I’m speaking people who have a regular presence within within a girl’s life – mums, dads, aunties, grandparents, caregivers, coaches, teachers, sisters, brothers, etc.

Social scientists have documented that most learning during childhood occurs from imitation and observation. What does this mean within the context of teaching girls to be more assertive and find their voice? It means we have a massive opportunity – and responsibility – to help girls become assertive through being assertive ourselves. In retrospect, points 1-8 above aren’t just useful tools for children and young adults, but for all of us.   

“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”James Baldwin


Blog by, Tess Ackland

Tess is the founder and Director of ON! Juniper, a lifestyle brand that supports girl empowerment through building self-awareness, health and happiness. ON! Juniper hand-makes organic + natural lip balms and bath bombs for girls.