"You'll win this easily, you're playing a girl!" This is a comment I would hear being said regularly to my opponent in childhood chess competitions. This comment would make my nine-year-old self more determined to beat them -- which I often did, checkmating both their king and naïvely sexist ideas. Still, it highlights a major problem that we face in the UK and worldwide today:
The idea that men produce more substantial thought than women remains engrained in both sexes.
Girls are judged on their appearances at times when men are for valued for their ideas; male speakers are viewed as more authoritative than their female counterparts, and women are interrupted more often than men. I have witnessed this throughout my life.
Our society instills diminished self-confidence in women through upholding such gender preconceptions. Consequently, girls and women are habitually discouraged from trying new things, putting forward their ideas, and displaying their full potential. Even in a female-dominated university course, such as English Literature, it is often male students who contribute more frequently and confidently in discussions. They do not trail off or cut their points short because they feel they have been talking for too long. If this power imbalance is reinforced before adulthood, it will resonate into the workforce.
Women in the workforce see barriers as brick walls, while their male counterparts see them as obstacles to overcome. A prime example of this is that only seven per cent of women negotiate for their starting salary compared to 57 per cent of men. Women need to challenge the rules more often. We must empower ourselves through believing in our abilities, resolutely pursuing opportunities and ensuring our voices are heard.
Girls' mind-sets need to be transformed, and the barriers which instil these mentalities must be abolished. This starts with education. The U.K. may have universal education, but there needs to me more taught than just Science, Arts, and Languages. Schools need to instil self-confidence and resilience from an early age, which can be achieved through prompting equal participation in classes, encouraging girls to attribute their successes to themselves instead of external factors, continuing to engage girls in sport, and creating awareness of opportunities and campaigns they can get involved in, such as This Girl Can.
Rather than ignore the taboo that exists regarding the inequality towards women in the U.K. today, girls must be taught about the barriers they are likely to come up against, and how they can overcome them. They need to be encouraged to stand their ground and not back down. Both males and females should learn about successful women; the best way to demolish the preconception that men produce more substantial thought than women, is to showcase female intelligence and tenacity.
Take every opportunity you receive and make your ideas heard.
Education must extend to the corporate sector in order to remove the barriers which contribute to women's lack of self-belief in the workplace. Employers must commit to consciously recognize biases in the recruitment process -- including their own internal prejudices -- and remove them. They must use current intersectional research into the different barriers that women face to reassess ways of including women in the boardroom and throughout companies.
These educational reforms throughout every career stage are needed to cultivate women's self-confidence and establish gender parity in the labour force. So to give your daughter the same opportunities as the boys in her class: educate her (and your sons) about gender equality and talk to her school and your council about making these changes.
Change begins with you. Take every opportunity you receive and make your ideas heard. Be the inspiration for the next generation.
By Phoebe Price, delegate representing the United Kingdom at the 2016 G(irls)20 Summit in Beijing, China.
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