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Encouraging Attitudes That Cultivate Female Leadership

11/05/2015 04:57 EST | Updated 11/05/2016 05:12 EDT
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Businesswoman With Daughter

A new academic year, a fresh start, getting back into routines, digging out school uniforms and committing to "new [academic] year's resolutions" like we will always walk to school, never drive (unless raining/snowing/late); we will always do homework as soon as we get it (and not at the last possible moment).

This year, my identical twin girls turned nine and had "sleepover" parties (x2). On the one hand, they were relatively straightforward to organize. On the other, five young girls sharing one bedroom on a Friday night, awake until after midnight (I can't be exact, I was asleep before them...), up at 6 a.m., 15 hours together, too many sugary snacks, over-tired...

After her friends had departed, I asked one of my daughters: "How do you think your party went?" She replied without hesitation: "Well, Daisy was a bit bossy, Ella was showing off and Alice was a bit moody*."

To be honest, I sort of agreed with her assessment (I was also rather tired). I responded along the lines of "Oh well, we need bossy people, otherwise nothing would ever get done." and changed the subject. But it got me thinking. Why did she describe her friends that way? I vaguely remembered the #banbossy campaign popping up on Facebook and wondered what types of attitudes I should be encouraging in my daughter. How should have I responded?

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I decided to seek advice from three women, all former head teachers of schools where most of the staff they managed were female. Approximately 50 per cent of the children they met throughout their careers would have also have been female. They had some fantastic stories and experiences. And despite the broad age range, the views and suggestions from the three were very similar. So much great advice! Here are some of my favourites:

  • Speak up: challenge, ask questions, ask for help, make suggestions, take risks and don't just describe those who do so as "bossy."
  • Be proud of your achievements and celebrate those of others -- don't just think they are "showing off." Are they are better than you at cartwheels? Great! You are good at cartwheels, too, and great at handstands! Maybe you can help each other to get even better?
  • Always show respect to others -- don't put people down. That never works.
  • Recognize the strengths in other people -- really get to know them. Why are they coming across as "moody"? Maybe they need your support in the friendship group? Are you allowing their voice to be heard?
  • Offer, discuss and celebrate positive role models -- and seek to be one yourself.
  • Be honest with yourself and with others (remembering to be respectful).
  • Notice what needs to be done and take action -- show and encourage initiative
  • Learn how to win and lose gracefully.

My list of new [academic] year's resolutions is growing....

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*Not their real names

By Julie Manson, Learning & Development Manager, Norton Rose Fulbright

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