I recently had the pleasure of participating on a panel discussion about the documentary, MISS Representation.
The documentary produced by Jennifer Siebel Newsom talks about how women are portrayed in the media. A secondary message in the movie talked about the lack of female leadership in key roles within the work place.
After watching the movie, my commitment to girls and women issues soared! I have a renewed vigor to make sure that our young girls realize their worth and not through the eyes of celebrities or commercials for products and services.
The movie provided startling statistics that showed self-objectification is growing. The movie also revealed that because of the numerous messages bombarding our youth, suicide, bullying, abuse, and rape are at an all-time high. One of the startling statistics in the documentary said, “Girls are learning to see themselves as objects. American Psychological Association calls self-objectification a national epidemic: Women and girls who self-objectify are more likely to be depressed, have lower confidence, lower ambition and lower GPAs.”
Questions asked after the movie ranged from, “I have boys; what can I do to counteract the inaccurate messages that they see on a daily basis?” to “How can I join the effort to stop the way women are being portrayed?”
As a panelist, here are a few of our recommendations. We encouraged:
- Those in the audience to start the discussion with their peers.
- Talking to young girls about the negative images as they appear on television and in movies.
- Women to seek opportunities to mentor other women striving to advance into leadership roles.
Too often I’ve seen women in leadership roles misusing their position by not setting an example for other women who are striving to advance in their careers, nor feeling a sense of obligation to mentor and help others. For the misrepresentation to change, these actions must change. The movie clearly showed us that until women are at the decision-making table, nothing will improve.
Finally, as the mother of a young son, I too walked away from this experience with my ‘marching orders.’ I want to teach my son to respect women and to have a healthy view of women, not one distorted by the images seen in the media to simply gain ratings.
It cannot be business as usual!
More information on this documentary is available on the MISS Representation website.
This month’s blog salutes the women who paved the road for me and so many others in celebration of National Women’s History Month.
To be a ‘first’ or also known as a trailblazer, you must have the ability to move beyond your fears, be a visionary, have tenacity, and be willing to “give it all up” for your cause. I believe every female trailblazer had these characteristics.
Significant progress has been made in the United States and now the movement has expanded to include the rights of women internationally.
As the recipient of these trailblazers’ accomplishments, we have an obligation to not let their hard work go in vain. We must continue to strive for excellence in our roles and keep our eyes open for opportunities to help other young girls and women. Our reach is becoming global thanks to the advancement of technology. We must extend our efforts to the women in other countries.
Can we really celebrate fully our accomplishments when so many women are still suffering and being viewed as second-class citizens?
On March 8, International Women’s History Day, World Association of World Guides and Girl Scouts from around the world hosted a 24 hour chat across eight time zones to discuss education, violence and decent job opportunities for girls and young women.
As the famous quote says, “To know your future, you must know your past.” If this quote is accurate, greater days are ahead in the advancement of women’s rights. Let’s continue to advance the movement.
Have you ever thought about what makes a great leader? Do you believe in the philosophy that everyone can be a leader and that everyone has a leader within them? As I was thinking about the topic for this month’s blog I thought about people who I have known and have encountered who are leaders. One thing leaders have in common is their burning desire to change things, to make a difference regardless if it was with people, widgets, or performance. It was the belief that there was room for improvement and that things could be better.
A “solid” leader must be able to build the team. A leader doesn’t simply supervise people, but great leadership has a lot to do with people development. Applauding the accomplishments of others and helping them develop the needed skills and enhance the ones they already have, is the “mark” of an excellent leader. A great leader is not a dictator or one who hides behind a title. A true leader will lead even when they are not asked to.
I am a strong supporter of collaborative leadership. Great leaders know it’s all about the team. When people are sure they have the respect of their leader it builds a strong bond. It is then easy for experts, and professionals to accept their leadership. When leaders are clear about their vision and their direction they make following easy.
Here are a few attributes that I think makes a great leader:
1. Respectful – Showing regard for self and others. Honoring the talents and skills of others.
2. Good listener – A leader must be a good listener. They should have the ability to understand, and even in some instances “listen between the lines.” Being an excellent listener also allows you to hear the “heart” of the person beyond the specific words used to convey their thoughts.
3. Visionary –A leader must be able to see the “big picture. The biggest confidence-booster for those you lead is to know that you are focused and that you have a plan. Visionaries are focused.
4. Trustworthy – This may be an obvious one, but definitely worth listing. A leader should be trusted. They should have the ability to keep the confidence of their manager, but also build the trust of the team.
5. Influencer – I mentioned this earlier, but a leader must have the ability to influence those they lead, even when the team doesn’t understand or see the direction that they’re going. The influencer must be able to put the team at ease and build their trust that in the end, it will benefit everyone.
6. Effective communicator – A leader must be a strong communicator who can effectively share their thoughts/vision.
7. Decisive – A leader must have the ability to make decisions –even the unpopular ones.
8. Fearless – It’s not that leaders don’t feel fear, they just don’t let it stop them.
This is not an exhaustive list, but it provides what I believe are key elements to being an effective leader. Some of the most effective leaders I’ve had the opportunity to work for had the ability to make everyone on their team feel important. No question was too silly nor was any idea too “off-beat.” Everyone’s opinion mattered. While not everyone’s ideas were chosen, they walked away from the experience feeling like they made a contribution.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there is a “thread” that is running throughout this list. If we as leaders successfully have these traits and others, we will build trust and ultimately be successful in whatever we want to accomplish.
So, I am not totally “sold” on the philosophy that everyone has a leader within them. However, I do believe that people can have and develop leadership attributes to help them be successful in whatever they choose to do.
I’m closing this month’s Blog with a quote from Lee Iacocca, who is a noted leader. His quote perfectly sums up the elements of an effective leader.
Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate them and reward them. If you do all those things effectively, you can’t miss. ~Lee Iacocca
Over the Christmas holiday my family saw the movie, Rise of the Guardian and I was pleasantly reminded about the childhood characters that I grew up with. In the movie we met Jack Frost, Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and the Sandman.
Without spoiling the movie for those who haven’t seen it, there’s a scene where Santa asked Jack Frost what is your core? Jack Frost told Santa that he didn’t know what his core was. Santa reassured him that he would eventually find out. True to his word, Jack Frost found out what his core was.
The movie used the word, “core” but what I think Santa was asking Jack Frost is, “What is your purpose?” I have been in numerous settings –too many to name-when the question has been asked to those in the room, what is your purpose. After a few “blank” and frustrated stares, there were always a few in the audience who raised their hands.
I think those who know their purpose and live it, have found one of the “keys” to living a fulfilling life. So many people have not identified what their purpose is. External pressures distract us from living our purpose. Whether it is pressure to do what others believe we should be doing versus what we love. Perhaps, it’s the pressure of living in a certain neighborhood, have a certain house or car can cause people to miss their purpose because they will pursue careers that help them “keep up with the Jones’s.” When they arrive, they realize that they’re not happy. Then there are those who just don’t know how to make a living doing what they enjoy.
If you’re lucky enough to find out what your purpose is, then you find yourselves faced with having to protect and nurture that purpose because there are so many external forces ready to discourage you from living your purpose.
My purpose is to help others. I have always gained a sense of accomplishment by helping people realize their dreams. I’ve been known to provide advice to friends about their careers, relationships, parenting, etc. I have an ability to help steer people in the direction that they desire. Although I understood what my purpose was, about 10 years ago, I discovered that my scope to help others was greater than what I imagined. Because of my role at Girl Scouts and my exposure in the community, my reach is far greater and so are my resources to help others.
My advice to those still searching for your purpose is to find a quiet time to reflect on when you were your most happiest. When do you feel your greatest sense of accomplishment? I hope by answering this question, that you too will spend your time doing those things that mean the most to you. Just maybe, you too can embark on a journey like Jack Frost in this delightful movie. Remember the journey is just that. Take one step at a time, never give up on your dreams, dismiss the naysayers, and don’t let fear rob you of living the fulfilled life.
The hustling and bustling of the holiday season is in full swing and so are the sales designed to entice us to purchase the latest and greatest or the new and improved! Everyone likes a bargain. Just look at the lines outside of major retailers for Black Friday sales.
During this holiday season, let’s remember those who mean the most to us. It is so easy with our busy lives to take those closest to us for granted. When is the last time you’ve said, I appreciate you? Or, thank you.
There can be a lot of emotion and meaning wrapped up in those three simple words, “I appreciate you.” Everyone wants to know that what they do and who they are matters.
Try as I’d like, I’m sometimes guilty of not telling those around me, how much I appreciate them. Then I remind myself, that at the very core of who we are, we all want to make a difference.
We want to feel appreciated because those feelings are the basis of our internal value and sense of worth. On the contrary, without those values we move around in life seeking our worth, esteem and confidence from people or circumstances that are not healthy.
I’m reminded of the stages of a child learning to walk. First they learn to crawl. Once that task has been mastered, they start pulling up on furniture. As their confidence builds, they begin to take their first few steps falling less and less as their confidence continues to build and then they start walking but, our admonishments cannot stop at the toddler stage.
Working with young women and girls, I see the importance of making sure that our youth understand that we appreciate them. Just as the toddler’s confidence grows when they see what can be accomplished with the support of a parent, what more can be accomplished from today’s youth? With that reassurance, we mature into self-confident adults who feel like we can accomplish anything.
‘I appreciate you’ can make a huge impact in the development of today’s youth. Imagine how they feel when faced with a decision that comes with huge consequences and they have the confidence, and self-worth to make a good choice.
As we wrap up another year, let’s challenge ourselves to encourage those around us by saying, those three simple words, I appreciate you!
I think the progress being made in this direction is wonderful. There are numerous benefits to having women in STEM careers. They are able to provide greater financial support to their families because traditionally STEM careers pay above the average pay scale. This shift in careers debunks the stereotype that boys are stronger in math and science. It also speaks volumes to our young girls because it expands the number of career options available to them.
In fact, many companies are lending their financial support to organizations that are exposing young girls to opportunities in STEM.
I recently read an article, Women in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) on iseekcareer.com that said approximately 17 percent of women are chemical engineers and 22 percent function as environmental scientists. The article listed the top three reasons why there is a gender gap in these careers is because there are no female mentors, there is a lack of acceptance from coworkers and there are gender differences in the workplace.
According to the National Science Foundation, in 2009, 22.6 percent of master’s degrees in engineering went to women. The article said it was the lowest percent given in science, technology, engineering and math fields. The US Department of Commerce found that one in seven engineers is female. These numbers show that men dominate women in STEM careers, but why.
I think men disproportionally outweigh women in STEM careers because there was a time when boys were encouraged to consider careers in math and science and girls were encouraged to go into professions that relied heavily on service occupation skills.
My thoughts were confirmed when I read a Forbes article, STEM Fields and the Gender Gap: Where Are the Women?The article said, “The problem starts as early as grade school.” That’s when I had my “aha” moment. Working for an organization that builds leadership skills in girls, are we the solution? Can we be the catalyst for change in this area?
Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI) released a study called, Generation STEM, What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
The study was conducted with girls in focus groups and in a national sampling. The study found that problem-solving, asking questions and figuring out how things worked made girls interested in STEM. Another finding discovered that girls interested in STEM are overachievers, doing well in school, and have support systems versus girls who are not interested in STEM. One of the final findings revealed that although a girl has an interest in STEM activities it doesn’t always translate into an interest in pursuing a STEM career. We still have work to do.
So, how do we encourage girls to consider career opportunities outside of Art/Design, Social Sciences and Entertainment (ranked the highest by girls in the GSRI study)?
The African proverb says it takes a whole village to raise a child. Anyone who has influence in the life of a girl can make a difference. Parents, educators, school counselors and non-profit organizations such as Girl Scouts, can dispel myths and increase awareness of what a career in STEM looks like. This can be accomplished with programs like “bring your child to work” day, having guest speakers who are currently working in a STEM career, and creating programs and activities that are STEM related are steps in the right direction.