When young women understand their potential in the workforce and as leaders, and have access to tools and opportunities, there is no limit to what they can achieve.
For International Day of the Girl this year, I’ve been thinking about the incredible accomplishments of girls around the world. And wow, are there plenty! I talk a lot about youth being the leaders of tomorrow, but it’s becoming more and more obvious that they’re the leaders of today – and I especially see that in young women.
From climate change to mental health, girls and young women are becoming activists and advocates on national and global platforms. I’ve seen this firsthand at Boys & Girls Clubs where, for example, Zena, the Southwest Youth of the Year, committed to help other teens struggling with mental health, and Brianna, National Youth of the Year, was inspired to pursue social work because of her time at the Club.
These amazing girls have overcome obstacles and are leading by example—but unfortunately there are so many other talented girls around the globe who may not have had the support or opportunities to reach their full potential.
To create a brighter, more equitable future for all, it’s critical that more young women understand their potential in the workforce and their capability as leaders. In the STEM fields in particular, lack of diversity can often translate to girls assuming they don’t belong. In fact, in Draw-A-Scientist tests, 70% of 6-year-old girls drew a woman scientist, but by age 16 this dropped to just 16%.
And that’s just one example why this year’s International Day of the Girl theme – “Digital generation. Our generation” – couldn’t be more urgent and timely. Despite the prevalence of social media and the pandemic resulting in more digital learning opportunities, there’s a large gap in women’s and girls’ digital adoption compared with men and boys worldwide. According to UNICEF, the gender digital divide for global internet users growing from 11% in 2013 to 17% in 2019 due to a lack of digital access for girls and women. Girls are also less likely to be the primary owners of digital devices such as phones and computers, and are more likely to have to borrow them from male family members. It’s no wonder they have greater difficulty gaining access to tech-related skills and jobs.
Throughout my career in the financial industry, I’ve seen the same divides come up with girls and money. Generationally, parents have often talked differently to their sons and daughters about finances, emphasizing saving and budgeting for girls, and investing and estate planning for boys. This disparity was seen again in a 2018 Schwab survey about young adults and money, showing that young women are still lagging their male counterparts in saving and investing.
That’s why it’s critical that we continue to highlight the inequalities girls may face, and continue educating them to make sound financial decisions. I’m especially proud of the financial literacy and decision-making skills girls build at the Boys & Girls Clubs through the Money Matters program. The program equips teens with personal finance skills to help prepare them for the workforce and lifelong success. These skills are essential for every young person to thrive. And when we equip girls with equitable resources and opportunities, there’s no limit to what they can achieve.
Learn more about Boys & Girls Clubs efforts to empower girls to build life skills and reach their full potential.