Moms play a crucial role in the aspirations of their daughters, a strong and independent mother will influence her daughter's desire to be self-sufficient, a submissive mother, economically dependent on her partner will influence the future that her daughter will project for herself. A girl needs to see confidence, leadership, and accomplishment in other women to envision herself with those qualities, especially when they do not have those models at home. Fortunately, there are nonprofit organizations like Inspiring Girls International which is dedicated to raising the aspirations of young girls around the world by connecting them with female role models. They introduce young girls (aged 10-15 years) to the full variety of careers and options in life - and inspire them to aim high. I had the pleasure to interview Vicky Booth, CEO of Inspiring girls to discuss the activities they do, and the challenges young girls are facing, and how we can change that reality.
“We believe that every woman has the potential to inspire young girls to fulfill their potential”
Inspiring Girls International is dedicated to raising the aspirations of young girls around the world by connecting them with female role models, where did this idea come from?
The international charity was founded by Miriam Gonzalez Durantez in 2016 and grew out of a successful project that she initiated in the UK back in 2011. It was built on two simple pieces of research - firstly, that gender stereotypes have been shown to impact on the career choices of girls from the age of 8 years old, and secondly, that girls say they do not have access to enough women role models in their lives. It is our mission to address that gap and connect teenage girls with the amazing women that we see around us every day. We believe that every woman has the potential to inspire young girls to fulfil their potential!
What activities do you do for achieving this goal?
We normally work through schools and community groups, organizing women to go to speak to groups of girls (and sometimes boys too!) about their career journeys and personal stories. Of course, the pandemic brought some significant challenges to this work, but our country teams have been incredibly resilient and proactive about shifting talks, activities, and outreach online. We know how important it is to maintain these vital connections and positive messages over the past year and I am delighted to say that we still managed to reach over 24,000 girls via online and in-person events and activities in 2020. Our online Video Hub is another fantastic resource during this time. It is now available in six languages, fulfilling our mission that any girl anywhere in the world should be able to access the career stories of amazing women.
You have a presence in 22 countries, what are your plans for the future?
Our network continues to grow in strength and size, and we are looking forward to welcoming several new country teams over the next few months, including Australia, Egypt and Guatemala. The campaign in each country is driven by individuals on the ground who have the energy and passion to run Inspiring Girls in their country. It’s such an exciting and diverse network - full of fantastic women who want to see change for the next generation.
We have plans to build on the success of our first Young Ambassadors Network, which was launched in October 2020. This network is made up of 11 fabulous young women aged 11-16 from France, Chile, Morocco, Spain, Italy, Panama, Brazil, Costa Rica, Serbia, Hong Kong, and Colombia. They play a key role in advocating on behalf of the charity and ensuring that the voices of girls remain at the heart of our work - we are currently working with them on several projects which will be launched over the coming months.
Partnerships are a big part of the work that we do on both a national and international level - we could not do the work we do without the support of our global corporate and trust partners such as BBVA and Cacharel. We have some exciting announcements coming soon about new collaborations so look out on our social channels for further updates.
“Lack of confidence amongst teenage girls is shocking - there is a massive 30% drop in confidence after the age of 8, 46% of girls aged 11-16 say that they don’t have the confidence to become leaders”
How can people get involved?
The easiest, quickest, and most effective way to get involved straight away is to record a video for our Hub. Anyone can take part and it will not take more than 15 mins of your time! All the information, guidance and uploading information can be found on https://videohub.inspiring-girls.com/.
We are always keen to recruit volunteer role models for school talks, and talk about potential partnerships, so please do check out ‘Where We Work’ and get in touch with your local country team.
Of course, people can also follow our social media channels (@inspiringgirlsint) to get further updates, including ‘spotlights’ on our work in particular countries, blogs and videos from our Young Ambassadors, case studies about our work, interviews with amazing women role models, and information about fantastic upcoming events and activities.
What are the biggest problems young girls face and how can we as a society change that?
Sadly, gender stereotypes and the gendered socialization of girls still has a huge impact on their abilities to do and say what they want. Lack of confidence amongst teenage girls is shocking - there is a massive 30% drop in confidence after the age of 8, 46% of girls aged 11-16 say that they don’t have the confidence to become leaders. Combine this with the fact that young people start to form ideas of careers that are ‘for girls’ and ‘for boys’ from the age of eight, and we can see a straight line between this and the lack of representation in leadership roles across all sectors! Of course, one of the most important ways that we believe we can change this is by intervening at this early stage of life to ensure that women who are doing a whole range of jobs are visible to girls - if they can see it, they can be it!
The pandemic has brought significant additional challenges for young people in terms of mental health and access to education and opportunities. Research by the Princes Trust in 2020 found that 55% of young people say the coronavirus crisis has made them fearful for their future - with 46% saying that thinking about their own future makes them feel ‘hopeless’. The UN estimates that 20 million girls may not return to education once the crisis is over, and we know that those who do will be further affected by gender bias, lack of confidence and the economic gaps between men and women which have worsened nearly everywhere in the world during the pandemic. It is clear that our charity has vital work to do to keep girls envisioning bright futures for themselves, whatever path they choose to take, and stay motivated to pursue their ambitions.
Do you have some statistics and stories about the impact of these conversations between girls and female role models?
We know that interaction with role models is one of the most important ways to overcome gender-based stereotypes - research by Microsoft has shown that having a strong role model in a STEM field meant that girls were twice as likely to choose STEM-related subjects. We see this impact every day in our work across the world. A study with Inspiring Girls Italy showed that over 70% of girls felt more positive about their futures after hearing from an Inspiring Girls role model, and another academic evaluation in Spain showed that participating in Inspiring Girls sessions-built girls’ self-confidence and boosted expectations of their own success. The impact is not just on the girls themselves but also boys who participate in the sessions who say they feel more aware of women in leadership roles. One 13 years old boy even commented that he ‘didn’t know that any women even worked in tech’. So dismantling gender stereotypes is beneficial for everyone!