What it means to be a girl: Challenging gender stereotypes

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Negative gender stereotypes and outdated ideas of what it means to be a girl can create barriers that prevent girls and women from reaching their full potential. In fact, following the release of the 2015 Because I am a Girl State of the World’s Girls report, Canadian adolescent girls were surveyed to gain insight into their personal experiences and perspectives on girls’ rights. A recurring theme emerged: many of the girls surveyed expressed their frustration about the pervasiveness of gender stereotypes and the inequality created by these unrealistic expectations.

Take a look at how recent initiatives and campaigns are challenging two of the most unfortunately common stereotypes and their negative impact.

SEE ALSO: Breaking down barriers: Girls and women who’ve challenged gender stereotypes

Girls aren’t good at science or math

The misconception that girls aren’t good at science and math, or don’t have an interest in technology can have a negative impact on the education and career paths that young girls choose.

But, social media campaigns like #ILookLikeAnEngineer, programs like Girls Who Code and toy companies like GoldieBlox, are encouraging girls to develop and deepen their interests and skills in STEM. If you’re looking for examples of real girls making waves in STEM, check out some of the inspiring young women in Plan Canada’s Top 20 Under 20!

“Girls don’t feel like they could do science because they are girls,” shared a 16-year-old girl from Ontario. “I like math and science, but I’m one of only a few girls in programs I go to and often people don’t expect me to know as much as a boy about these subjects,” shared another survey participant.

Girls can’t lead

Globally, the percentage of women in government has nearly doubled in the last 20 years. Progress is being made, however women still represent only 22% of elected officials. The disproportionate representation of men in leadership positions isn’t just a reality in politics, it’s a common trend across many industries, like business and entertainment.

Empowering girls with the skills and confidence to lead, developing meaningful mentorship opportunities, and creating supportive environments to foster leadership and growth can help encourage more girls and young women to become leaders. Through our Because I am a Girl Speakers Bureau and clubs, Plan Canada is working to build skills in girls across Canada that help them speak out and become leaders in their own communities.

“There aren’t many boys in leadership positions within our school, but in the actual world of leadership, in politics, it’s very male dominated,” revealed a 17-year-old survey participant.

SEE ALSO: Tomorrow’s empowered leaders: Meet 6 inspiring girls

Highlighting current female leaders can also help girls see themselves in these roles too! Websites like Makers, events like the Women in the World Summit, and Elle UK’s recent #MoreWomen campaign, aim to do just that! Are there other great examples of girls, women or campaigns breaking gender stereotypes? Let us know in the comments below!