Those eyes. That smile. She is my entire reason for being.
What kind of world is she going to grow up in?
Teacher. Babysitter. Singer. Princess. She’s told me she wants to be so many things when she grows up. My response each time, just as my own mother responded to me, is a kiss to her forehead, a hug ever so tightly, and a whisper in her ear: “You can be anything you want to be, sweetheart.”
Shakeshaft, Nowell, and Perry (2007) wrote, “The way we are treated from birth onward, because we are either female or male, does help to determine how we both see and navigate the world” (p. 340). What will my little girl’s eyes see as she grows up? Will she continue to see a world where females and males are treated differently simply because of their gender? Or will she live in a world where “glass ceilings” don’t exist? As her mother, I truly hope for the latter.
I want her to be anything she wants to be. I want her to be treated equally and given the same opportunities in life that her male counterparts have. I want her to be a leader among her peers–a strong voice, a trusted opinion, an equal partner.
But how realistic is this really? Have I started off lying to my daughter at such an early stage of her life? There is an abundance of research, studies, and literature out there that talk about the role that gender bias and stereotypes have on women in leadership positions. Glass ceilings have been constructed and gender barriers are in place. Opportunities and pay differ greatly depending on one’s gender.
Judith Warner (2014) adds:
“Although women have outnumbered men on college campuses since 1988, they have earned at least a third of law degrees since 1980, were fully a third of medical school students by 1990, and, since 2002, have outnumbered men in earning undergraduate business degrees since 2002. They have not moved up to positions of prominence and power in America at anywhere near the rate that should have followed.
In a broad range of fields, their presence in top leadership positions—as equity law partners, medical school deans, and corporate executive officers—remains stuck at a mere 10 percent to 20 percent. Their “share of voice”—the average proportion of their representation on op-ed pages and corporate boards, as TV pundits, and in Congress—is just 15 percent.
In fact, it’s now estimated that, at the current rate of change, it will take until 2085 for women to reach parity with men in leadership roles in our country.”
If this is true, my daughter will be 75 years old.
This is unacceptable. As a society, we can take action. We can change this mentality. Shakeshaft, Nowell, and Perry (2007) wrote, “We need to acknowledge our backgrounds and training, understanding that we had no control over what we were taught by society, school, and family. We do, however, have control over our actions today” (p. 347).
We need to remove the barriers. We need to break the glass ceiling. There is just as much research, studies, and literature to prove that women are clearly capable of holding leadership positions and rightfully so. Thankfully, there is a shift happening, ever so slowly. More people are realizing the value that women can bring to any table.
Crystal Hoyt writes, “In sum, despite the glass ceiling, women are showing a greater presence in top leadership positions. With changes in organizations and the developmental opportunities for women within them; greater gender equity in domestic responsibilities; greater negotiation power of women, especially regarding the work-home balance; the effectiveness and predominance of women-owned businesses; and changes in the incongruity between women and leadership, we likely will see more women in elite leadership roles” (p. 281).
We still have a ways to go. How long? It’s unclear. Will these biases, stereotypes, “ceilings” continue and affect my daughter’s daughter’s daughter? I hope not. But I can say, whole-heartedly, that I look forward to the day when my daughter comes to me and tells me she wants to be a leader. I hope to be able to say to her: “Dream Big, Be Big, Princess. Wherever your dreams and heart may take you, go.”
Hoyt, C. (2007). Women and Leadership. In P. Northouse (Ed.), Leadership: Theory and Practice (4th Ed). (pages 266-283). London: SAGE publications.
Shakeshaft, C., Nowell, I., & Perry, A. (2007). Gender and Supervision. The Jossey-Bass reader on educational leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Warner, J. (2014). Fact Sheet: The Women’s Leadership Gap. Retrieved from: https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/reports/2014/03/07/85457/fact-sheet-the-womens-leadership-gap/