"She shoots! She scores" This sign hangs in my 16 year old daughter's bedroom. From the day she walked into the building for her first hockey practice, at age five, and pronounced "I love the smell of an arena", we knew she was a hockey player. Of course she's not just a hockey player; she's an excellent student, a little sister, a big sister, a baker, a daycare assistant, a best friend, an artist, a snowboarder, and recently a member of a leadership group at her high school. She's not unusual; she's like many women and girls. We are more than just one thing.
I know that my daughter, living in Canada, is one of the lucky ones. Even though she might not see it as a privilege some days, she gets to go to school. That's a baseline requirement for our girls to be successful. The statistics in other parts of the world are staggering. There are 62 million girls in the world not in school right now. Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai has come to embody the fight that girls go through (after being shot in the head by the Taliban by simply attempting to go to school), and she continues to fight for every girl to have the right to an education.
"History uses common people to do the uncommon", a representative from the Malala Fund said as she spoke at the recent S.H.E. Summit in New York City, which, according to its founder Claudia Chan, has a mandate of unleashing female potential. And this potential is started or stopped at a young age. Canadian model and actress Dayle Haddon spoke about the challenges that girls aged 12-14 struggle with in many parts of the world. "This is where we lose our girls. They are taken out of school, sold off, or married off to older men. By 17 they have three children." At 17, next February, I know my daughter will be thinking about her hockey playoffs.
We think that strides are being made towards equality and for the feminism movement, but when we dig into the numbers, that's not always true. For instance, in 1980, women represented 37% of technology jobs, vs only 18% today. And still, for the most part, women are afraid to be powerful, and to show that power. "Women are raised to believe that power is destructive. Women should just embrace power. We need to reach behind us to other women, as successful women." said Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. And that's something many of us can do today; to create role models for our daughters, nieces, and other girls.
Can corporate sponsors help to motivate and inspire the girls of today, and women of tomorrow? Yes, according to Haddon, in fact it's essential that they do so. "Beauty products only work if girls feel good about themselves inside." Corporations and brands are starting to pay attention to this. Gillette Venus was a key sponsor of the S.H.E. Summit and recently launched a campaign dedicated to helping girls and women "#UseYourAnd". This refers to not being labeled "the smart one", "the pretty one", but focusing on what else they are. "It's to help women overcome the label and be empowered. Women are often labeled as one specific thing which can be self-fulfilling and limiting." said a company spokesperson. "Once labeled, they also label others." When my daughter switched from being the only girl on a boys' team, to playing with other girls she remarked "Well at least I'll be playing hockey with the kind of girls who play hockey." And more.
"Being competitive is a positive thing." said Wasserman, not something that women should be avoiding. Being competitive is something a rep hockey player knows about when they're on the ice; we need to move it beyond that. As hockey great Wayne Gretzky once said "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." That's what we're fighting for. To give the girls a shot.
"Don't just take what you can get, create what you want." General Counsel lawyer Marlene Gordon stressed at the S.H.E. Summit. I don't even need to take these words home to my daughter, as she has always dreamed of starting the Women's NHL. And a bakery. #UseYourAnd, and I'll be there to help you.