Sunday, June 12, 2016

Let's teach our girls to be brave


I love watching the Women’s College Softball World Series each year. When I was a kid, playing softball was something I at which I excelled. At that time, the only sports that were on television were men’s sports. When in high school, I can remember finding the WCWS on television at 3:00am - not an ideal time to generate interest or excitement for the sport or the athletes. 

Nowadays, it’s exciting to watch the series as the top female softball players in the country put all of their skills and efforts from practices into the biggest competition of the year. It’s been fun for me personally as I’ve watched my friend Pat Murphy coach the University of Alabama many times in the World Series, and this year Auburn University made it to finals for the first time.

It was in one of these games that I saw the shortstop make an error, and when the camera zoomed in on her face, she looked like she was down on herself. She had just made an error on a huge, public stage.

Immediately, I went into “coach mode” and said outloud to the television, “Come on. You’ve got to recover from this. Keep going.” 

I also immediately thought about the TED talk I had recently watched, Teach Girls Bravery, not Perfection.

Click here if you can't see video on your device:

And I also thought in that moment how thankful I was that the girls that I was watching were playing sports, that I had been an athlete and coach, and that my own daughters were athletes. I believe that athletics can be a breeding ground for leaders, especially female leaders, because of the lessons that are learned.



Some of Reshma’s words are pretty strong, but they’re words we need to consider, especially for all of the female leaders who are reading this:
“And I'm not alone: so many women I talk to tell me that they gravitate towards careers and professions that they know they're going to be great in, that they know they're going to be perfect in, and it's no wonder why. Most girls are taught to avoid risk and failure. We're taught to smile pretty, play it safe, get all A's. Boys, on the other hand, are taught to play rough, swing high, crawl to the top of the monkey bars and then just jump off head-first. And by the time they're adults, whether they're negotiating a raise or even asking someone out on a date, they're habituated to take risk after risk. They're rewarded for it. It's often said in Silicon Valley, no one even takes you seriously unless you've had two failed start-ups. In other words, we're raising our girls to be perfect, and we're raising our boys to be brave.”
As a female educator in a leadership position, I can’t help but draw from statistics in the field. According to this 2011 eSchool News article,
“Seventy-two percent of the education workforce consists of women, yet the number of women in leadership positions falls far short of that statistic. They fare best in the role of elementary school principals, with 54 percent of these jobs being held by women. But at the secondary school level, only 26 percent of principals are women, and in the head job of superintendent, 24 percent are women.”
Where are all of the female leaders? I know that I personally was told by a teacher (female) that “she doesn’t trust any female in an authority position.” Imagine how that felt, as a leader who has spent a career on building trust, walking the walk, and being honest. Facing comments such as this require courage. Are we teaching our young girls to be brave? Are we supporting other females the same way we support males?

One lesson all athletes learn by playing sports is that “We’re not perfect.” Athletes learn that mistakes happen, that no amount of self-pity will change the mistake, and that the best thing to do is to forgive one’s self and learn from the mistake. Athletes also learn that dwelling on mistakes can lead to future mistakes. When we’re a part of a team, we also learn that we have to forgive each other’s mistakes and support each other when they’re made. 

I hope that this post inspires you to reflect on how you’re raising your daughters, how you’re influencing female students and athletes, and how you’re supporting women to be brave. We need to get girls involved in athletics or other programs where they can learn “persistence not perfection” at a young age. We also need to support all ages of females who are doing brave things.

I believe in you.
Let me know how I can support you.





1 comment:

  1. Jennifer,

    Thanks for sharing this. As a father of two girls, I believe this is SO important. We need to send the message (and live it) that our girls need to be brave and bold. This is my third school district and I've had the fortune to work for two outstanding female superintendents. I hope your summer is going well!

    Jon

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