Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women. – Maya Angelou
In these changing times, it’s good to remember the long view. Making history isn’t easy, but be assured: Women are making history. Kamala Harris became California’s first female Attorney General. Catherine Cortez Masto became the first Latina Senator in the U.S. Kate Brown is Oregon’s first “out” LGBTQ Governor. Ilhan Omar is the first Somali-American Muslim elected to office. A former refugee, Ilhan is the newest member of the Minnesota House of Representatives. Tammy Duckworth, outspoken Iraq War vet who lost both legs in combat, was elected to the Illinois Senate.
Progress, yes! With a long way to go.
When it comes to women in leadership, the U.S. ranks 99 out of 193 countries (between Kenya and Kyrgyzstan). Women currently hold only 4.8% of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies. In our culture, women are more likely to get negative feedback for being assertive (see our blog: The Confidence Gap in Girls), while men are rewarded. Women who speak more in meetings are considered less competent, while men who use the same amount of words are considered smart (performance has nothing to do with it). Weigh that nonsense against studies that show the more women who sit at the decision-making table, better decisions are made that benefit everyone in the long run.
Confidence is the greatest gift we can give our daughters and sons.
When your daughter asks you, “Can I be president?” Tell her a resounding, “Yes!” Our mothers and grandmothers had to fight for women’s rights, and we are still fighting to earn equal wages, opportunities, and the power to choose what’s right for our bodies. The fight will continue for our daughters until real equality exists. Because, well, women just don’t give up.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was once a girl nicknamed Kiki, a baton twirler from Brooklyn, whose mother constantly advised her to be independent, able to fend for herself, no matter what the future might bring. She went to law school when women accounted for only 3% of the legal profession, and only 1 woman had ever served on the federal appellate court. Ginsburg later went on to become the first tenured professor at Columbia Law. She cofounded the Women’s Rights Project at ACLU, fought for equal pay and against sex discrimination, and raised a family. She now she sits as one of three women on the bench of the Supreme Court. Ginsburg credits her mother for instilling in her the confidence to achieve whatever her talents allowed, and to help others do the same.
Eight Ways to Build Confidence & a Better World
1) Believe in the power within you. Confidence is an inside job. What you believe about yourself matters. Talk yourself up, not down. Encourage. Be kind. Believe that you can. Be patient when you can’t. We all doubt ourselves sometimes. Trust you will figure things out, and you will.
2) Encourage your children to ask questions, take risks, and be proud of their courage to do so. Ditch the perfect ending. Resilience is a skill best learned through things not going right. Teach them discovery is about what you don’t know.
3) Get loud. Allow your daughter to vent, argue her point, be emotional. Let her practice on you. Girls need to learn their own minds and what they want, and find effective means of expressing themselves, without trying to smooth things over as many of us do.
4) Allow your son to express his gentle side. “If you’re a boy and you like teaching, you like nursing, you would like to have a doll, that’s okay too… We should each be free to develop our own talents, whatever they may be, and not be held back by artificial barriers.” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg
5) Role model arguments. Let your children see you fight sometimes with your partner – but do it right. Let them see you defining your spaces and working to find a solution. Stand up for how you feel. Let your children see it’s okay to disagree, and even better to find a way through it.
6) Get physical. Roughhousing is good for kids. It helps them explore their own power, and builds resilience and self-control by helping children constructively channel their competitive energies.
7) Get active. Volunteer in groups working for change. Speak up for rights, your own and other’s.
8) Imagine a better world, then work like crazy to make it happen. Confidence grows each time we exercise our determination to live what we believe.
We can never be complacent and think, “we’ve arrived.” Our work is never done. The work continues and for all the young men and women, we can never be complacent because we have seen in recent times how quickly things can be taken away if we are not vigilant, if we don’t know our history, if we don’t continue the work. My hope is that people leave here inspired and ready to do something. So the question is what are you going to do? How am I going to be better? What are you going to change in your life, in your office, in your relationships, in your family dynamics? How are you going to empower yourself with the information you need to know what work needs to be done? We can’t afford to be ignorant and we can’t afford to be complacent. We have to do the work.
– First Lady Michelle Obama
Princess Ivana, Magdalene Smith and Marisa Smith