By Jennifer Flanagan, President and CEO, Actua
On International Day of the Girl I can’t help but get excited about the overwhelming number of positive messages on social media using #dayofthegirl, as well as the Government of Canada, Status of Women-led campaign #ClaimYourPlace. It is incredibly empowering and important for girls and young women to see such a large rally of support behind them to ‘take what’s yours’ and to ‘break the glass ceiling.’ This is the type of support that’s needed every day, but not just on social media. We need to put these words into concrete action – and everyone has a role to play.
In the spirit of taking such action, I invite you to take a moment to ask yourself what you are doing to actively support the girls and young women in your circle.
As a parent – are you modeling your own feminism and addressing stereotypes that you see in the media or in other advertising? Are you encouraging your daughters to explore technology the same way as your sons?
As a teacher – Are you aware of unconscious bias in the classroom? Are males and female stereotypes reinforced through any of the texts or books you use in the classroom? In what ways are you encouraging gender equity of voice and participation?
As a CEO – Are you ensuring your Board of Directors and senior leadership has equal representation around the table? Are your female staff getting paid the same wage as their male counterparts?
As a scientist – Are your lab tests and analysis executed by women or mostly men? Are you thinking about how your research impacts women as well as men?
As a partner in life – Are you supporting her to move the dial and shoot for the top? Does that support continue over time as life gets more complex?
As a friend, brother, colleague – Are you standing up against gender bias when you see it in your day-to-day lives. We need men’s voices to be equally outraged by sexist and misogynistic events.
All of the above will affect girls’ and women’s likelihood and ability to claim their place and break through the ever-present glass ceiling.
For me, as the leader of a national organization with a significant focus on engaging girls in the STEM fields, I see the barriers girls face every single day.
One of the things I have been talking a lot about lately is digital skills and how we ensure girls are not being left behind in the development of what has now become a basic literacy. If girls are left out of the development of digital skills, as the research is showing that many are, they will not only be left out of computer science careers but virtually every other job that will require digital literacy. We will also continue to be living in a world designed almost exclusively by men.
Diversity of ideas leads to better products and results in every field, and is necessary for us to achieve our full innovation potential. We must stop making excuses for why girls and women continue to be underrepresented in STEM and in leadership positions. We not only need to talk about why women should claim their place, but actively and fully discuss the actions we need to take to make this happen.