Women Leading Women in Overcoming Barriers and Bias

Leadership

Written by: Kelly Fisher

18.11.2020

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Mentors are a crucial component in overcoming barriers and challenges for women and girls, shows recent report.

Kamala Harris will be the first female to serve as Vice-President in U.S. history, shattering an important glass ceiling.  Kamala said it best when delivering a speech on the night that the election was called.  

 “But while I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”   

While we can certainly celebrate this milestone of Kamala Harris being the first woman as Vice-President, it is important to place it in a larger context as well: There are many disparities that exist today about the proportion of women in leadership positions compared to men in both political office, and the workplace.  Additionally, due to a variety of factors including class, race, sexuality, and other factors, women experience different barriers and challenges.   

A recent report from Girls Leadership, an organization dedicated to gender equality in the U.S., seeks to answer how women and girls overcome barriers and challenges. Their focus was on black and latinx girls in the U.S, and they conducted interviews with over 2,000 girls’ parents, and 600 teachers to identify what factors are supporting and blocking girls’ leadership developments and aspirations.  These are the most important findings. 

1. The importance of mentors.

The most important finding in this report, is the importance of mentors and role models for girls in developing their leadership skills and aspirations. The report found a high correlation between those girls who saw themselves as ready to lead, and who had a mentor in their life.  This type of research finding is particularly exciting as we at SHE Community have our own Mentor program, and recognize the role mentoring plays in women’s leadership development.   

2. Bias as a barrier. 

Women of color are largely underrepresented in positions of leadership. Black and latinx girls self-reported some that they identified as leaders and were ready to lead at the highest levels among those surveyed, but often these young girls see bias as a barrier.  They are often worried about how others will perceive them as leaders 

3. Expanding our focus. 

Too often research that has looked at barriers that women face, and has focused on middle class white women.  By focusing on a different group of girls and women like black and latinx women, it brings into focus the different barriers and challenges they may be facing.   

So, what can we do to try and support these girls as young leaders? How to help them overcome some of these different barriers?  Could you consider yourself to be able to be a mentor?  

In need of inspiration, the report is fascinating and worth reading further here.