Kick Ass Women: Raising Superheroes
Here at Woozy Moo, we believe strongly in empowering our young girls and work towards this every chance we can get. We had the opportunity to interview 8 amazing women that have accomplished great things in a powerful interview series. These women are mentors, educators, writers, and activists. They were raised to be strong successful women. We asked them to share their advice for raising strong empowered girls (and boys).
The Sky is the Limit!
Teach your daughters goal-setting and teach them to aim high! Each of the women we interviewed said we need to teach our daughters to live by passion and ignore gender expectations.
“Dream big and know that anything is possible. You only get one shot at life, so make it worth it, and leave the world better than you found it,” says Shiza Shahid, Cofounder of the Malala Fund and a member of Forbes’ 30 under 30 list. The Malala Fund was founded by Shahid and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai to empower girls through education.
“Change begins with us,” says Shahid. “We have the power to change what we cannot accept, whether that is in our own lives or in the world around us.”
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, former ABC News reporter and New York Times bestselling author, cautions that girls need to trust themselves despite the “noise” that surrounds them and tells them what they should and shouldn’t do. “They know the answers. They know what they want to do. The truth is they have to chart their own path and trust themselves.”
It is essential to not limit our daughters’ experiences in education and play. Providing girls with a variety of toys including gender neutral toys is important in helping them know the range of possibilities available.
Smash the Stereotypes.
We love this advice since we believe there are no gendered toys--only toys for all.
Furthermore, everyone hates being held back and stereotypes do that. Who wants to limit a girl’s potential? We sure don’t! Here’s what these amazing women had to say!
“I would encourage parents to stay away from perpetuating stereotypes,” says Sweta Saxena, Senior Economist at the International Monetary Fund. “Little girls don't have to make anorexic Barbies their role models,” says Saxena.
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon has found through researching her book, Ashley’s War, that behind the successful and confident female soldiers were fathers cheering them on and pushing them to achieve. “They all had fathers who treated them like exactly like they treated their brothers. Who really pushed them and never made a distinction in the difference between their boys and their girls,” says Lemmon.
Melissa Fach, Community Manager for Pubcon, recounts the influence of her father in her career decisions, “In the early 80s people [made] a big deal about how my brother and cousins would run companies one day because they were boys, and only men ran companies. However, my dad never did and always tried to push me in the direction of college and business.” The attitudes of parents influence girls’ ability to see themselves in any role.
"Raise your daughters as if they are sons and raise your sons as if they are daughters," is the advice Neeraj Kaushal, Professor at Columbia University gives. Kaushal grew up in a lower middle class neighborhood in New Delhi in a family with four daughters and no sons. Kaushal’s parents’ attitudes toward daughters allowed them to excel in non-traditional roles. “When pressured to adopt a son, which they did not, [my parents] often responded that their daughters were their sons,” recounts Kaushal.
Beauty Is Confidence.
Rejecting old stereotypes also means embracing a new definition of beauty. Raising strong daughters means teaching them that confidence and self-acceptance is beautiful.
“Don't get caught in the superficial stuff. Know that you are beautiful, and that beauty stems from self-confidence and kindness. Commit yourself to helping those less fortunate and making the world better,” advises Shahid who, in 2012, left her job as an analyst at McKinsey & Company to help start and run the Malala Fund.
The old adage, beauty is as beauty does, should come to mind as parents teach their daughters to focus on inner-beauty.
“Make sure no one in the family focuses on looks or styled hair or the perfect clothes,” advises Melissa Fach. “Let them learn to love themselves for what they love, who they are and what they enjoy. Without self-esteem and a sense of self, they have nothing and we have proof this leads to drugs, bad relationships, earlier pregnancy, and other things we want our kids to avoid,” says Fach.
Emotions are Not Bad.
Too often, people say being emotional is a no-no. Girls (and boys!) need to learn that it is perfectly okay to have emotions. In fact, all the amazing women we interviewed said that emotions such as empathy or outrage can actually be the “it” factor that helps girls reach their goals. Everything we love requires passion, and passion embodies a range of emotions, so it is important to help children understand and harness such emotions for positive outcomes. Girls and boys should not be deterred from displaying their emotions because what others might call “unfeminine” or “not masculine.”
“It is particularly important for girls to be able to own and express their anger,” counsels Kat Gordon, who is an advertising creative director and the visionary behind The 3% Conference, a social movement that champions female creative leadership in the marketing world. “Anger is just an emotion, and a valid one. Being mad doesn’t make a girl unfeminine. It makes her human and expressing it is an act of self-care,” says Gordon.
Recovering from tragedies, setbacks, and disappointments is essential to becoming empowered. Gayle Lemmon’s book recounts the inspirational ability of female soldiers in being able “to keep going even in the face of obstacles and naysayers and dangers” and of people who are “committed to causes bigger than themselves and who are just undeterred when people tell them they can’t or it will never work.”
Each of the women we interviewed overcame many challenges before reaching their goals. As they say, success comes with many failures and emotions, so teach our girls that failing is not bad! It important to pick yourself backup and not be deterred. It is part of being successful.
Teach to Build Up Not Tear Down.
Each of our interviews highlighted the importance of being a part of something bigger. Sweta Saxena, Senior Economist at the IMF explains the importance of teaching girls to add value in anything they choose to do, saying, “[Girls] should be brought up with the explicit goal to develop and create value in anything and everything they encounter. For example, they should be taught to not criticize but provide comments that enhance value in whatever the product or situation is.” Saxena, also cautions, that unfortunately, “[W]omen continue to face discrimination - and it is even worse because it comes more from other women than just men,” so girls should be aware of this challenge.
Saxena also practices what she preaches about creating value by organizing a weekly study group to help other women advance within her organization. “My advice is that women need to support each other in more tangible ways,” says Saxena. “Rather than just being mentors to each other, try to be sponsors of each other. Figure out practical ways to help each other. See other women's success with pride rather than jealousy.”
This quality of creating value goes a long way in all aspects of her life--personal and professional, says Saxena, who ascribes the practice of creating value to her Buddhist philosophy. “Have the wisdom to see the truth, the courage to tell the truth, and the compassion to help deal with it,” says Saxena.
Raising strong girls means teaching them not to be shy or be reticent in improving their surroundings. “Girls should figure out what makes them feel fulfilled and contributory and then just go for it,” says Jeanette C. Takamura, Dean at Columbia University School of Social Work, Former Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Takamura, a strong advocate against bullying, encourages parents and society to teach young people the importance of treating all others with respect.
Learn to Accept that There Is No ‘Perfect.’
Women will “often find themselves caught in a balancing act between professional and personal obligations, and between their expectations and what’s realistically attainable,” says Debora Spar, President of Barnard College. “Encourage them to choose carefully and wisely and, most importantly, to never beat themselves up when they find out the quest for perfection is, in actuality, futile,” advises Spar.
Says Kat Gordon, “Becoming a mother and trying to figure out how to keep my career going while raising small children was such a challenging process. I figured out my own path, but hearing how other women were doing it – and how useless mommy guilt is – would have spared me some soul-crushing moments.”
Perfection may be elusive, so it is important to celebrate smaller successes. “I wish I had a mentor to tell me I needed to be patient—that great victories (personal and professional) would be few and far between,” confides Debora Spar. “Instead, it is important to savor the smaller accomplishments along the way.”