As the mother of a now 19 year old young woman, whom we homeschooled for middle and high school, I had plenty of years to wonder whether we were raising and educating her to be a powerful woman. Are brave girls a result of heredity or environment? Perhaps it’s a little of both. After interviewing hundreds of high-achieving businesswomen, Dr. Stacey Radin discovered that even the country’s most accomplished female professionals were often hampered by insecurity and afraid of being considered too aggressive in a business world run largely by men. She wanted to change that statistic and so she dedicated herself to uncovering the inherent strengths, value, and skills of young girls.
Dr. Radin’s research with these women proved that these harmful thoughts are formed in middle school, when identity development is at its peak. Even as responsible adults, women still faced the confining and outdated gender norm of the “nice little girl.” To weaken the power of this limiting message, Dr. Radin founded Unleashed, an after-school program that introduces pre-teen girls to an important social cause—animal rescue—and gives them a passion, a key element in being engaged and successful in both the workplace and in life.
Recently I had a chance to read her book which explains her story and the science behind this endeavor.
Brave Girls: Raising Young Women with Passion and Purpose to Become Powerful Leaders
Through Unleashed the girls create solutions to the task of rescuing neglected and abused dogs, they learn compassion and resilience, how to interact with peers with empathy and respect, and develop resourcefulness and critical thinking skills.
I instantly saw the benefits of Dr. Radin’s program. As a parent of a girl, those are all character traits I too wanted my daughter to learn. We chose to go the route of church clubs and Girl Scouts, but nonetheless girls need to be put in groups with other girls of different ages, temperaments, personalities, cultures, and social classes, where adults are kept to the periphery. This allows them to grow in many areas of their life and make decisions that are still somewhat supervised (for guidance and safety), but yet are truly their own to let the chips fall where they may depending on their choices. Unleashed lets middle school girls do just that.
Where I found Dr. Radin’s book truly struck a chord with me (and likely will with other parents and educators that were in the same boat that we were and actually still are), was with how girls are stereotyped, especially at that age, compared to boys. She writes:
Stereotypes remain stubbornly resistant to change because people tend to categorize others by gender: they remember attributes that are most consistent with a stereotype (e.g., blondes are dumb; girls are bad at math). The is innate reaction exaggerates differences between the genders; it is hard to change because it has become habitual and automatic. – Page 116.
Our daughter has always excelled in the sciences and math. Yet prior to homeschooling her we had to push against school administration to allow her to take the advanced math class in 6th grade. After much pushing, she was finally admitted into it. No surprise that she was the only 6th grade girl in the class. She’s encountered the gender bias all throughout her schooling years. Currently she is studying video game design in university, a field that is highly dominated by men.
But I think because we raised her to be not just a compassionate and respectful individual, but also one that is able to stand her ground and speak her mind (because we realized early on that due to her gender, intelligence and size she’d have to be a strong and powerful person), she is excelling in her studies and is in turn respected by her professors and male peers.
Although the majority of our child raising is done, our daughter still comes to us for advice. There are plenty of good things to take away from Dr. Radin’s book Brave Girls, some of which is pertinent even to young adults (and old ones too!). Dr. Radin shares this tidbit in her book, which I think is great for everyone to heed:
You are more likely to successfully navigate the maze of life if you are not clinging to a definitive plan; the willingness to veer in differing directions that seem exciting or rewarding is more likely to lead to connections with well-suited opportunities. – Page 123.
I’m keeping that in my back pocket for a rainy day when I get a panic induced phone call or text full of angst from my daughter when her carefully devised plans fall apart 😉
As I said there is plenty to take away from Brave Girls in ways we as parents and educators can help support, encourage and guide our daughters to be passionate, purposeful and powerful in their communities, schools and eventually their workplaces. That being said as a conservative person in all areas of my life, Dr. Radin does espouse more liberal philosophies than I’d take on personally. If you like me are more traditional in your thinking, you can still take much of what she says and make it work for you by implementing the ideas in different ways to achieve the same results.
Our daughters can still be equal, but different than boys. Feminism doesn’t have to look like burning bras or agreeing with political or moral norms that you may oppose to. And while the author has in my opinion a liberal bent to her version of feminism, the very crux of this book is teaching our daughters that they can stand up for themselves, be assertive, passionate and powerful for whatever they believe in, be that liberal OR conservative. I feel that I have accomplished that with a number of things that Dr. Radin discusses like: making sure our daughter has had social connections with positive female networks; by having her volunteer and not just by following instructions but by leading by example and organizing volunteer efforts (which is ultimately what Unleashed, Dr. Radin’s program, is all about), by instilling in her that if you want to make a difference find something you’re passionate about and engage yourself in it.
If you’re a parent or an educator with a grade school or middle school daughter and are interested in reading Brave Girls: Raising Young Women with Passion and Purpose to Become Powerful Leaders, you can find the book on Amazon.com for purchase. You can even look inside Brave Girls and read some of it to get a better understanding of how Dr. Radin is achieving her goals to empower girls to become leaders.
This is a sponsored post, but as always opinions are 100% my own.