Holding Our Teenage Girls Back From Becoming Leaders

Holding Our Teenage Girls Back From Becoming Leaders

“We must tell girls their voices are important.” – Malala Yousafzai

Are we holding our teenage girls back from becoming great leaders?

I asked myself this question in the midst of organizing the STARR Project Teen-Esteem and Leadership Experience held in July 2015 in Coloma, CA.

Do women have to show up as super human to get noticed for leadership positions?

As I look at the political landscape today, I think, why are there not more women running for high office?  Women are over 50% of the vote! In society, in general, do we not hold women as capable as men?

In STARR, the teen girls were exposed to many levels of leadership. There were trust falls, presentations, creative expression, physical challenges, self-defense, team leading, and board-breaking. Their voices were heard. They tested themselves, both emotionally and physically, throughout the week. And, they saw how they could come together as a team, and as each member of the team brought their full potential to the group, the leaders emerged!

To see more about STARR Leadership go to StarTeen.org and make sure to connect with us on FaceBook

I read an amazing article on this very subject called Leaning Out – Teen Girls and Leadership Biases by Richard Weissbourd –  Making Caring Common Project.

Their research suggests that the teen girls who are key to closing the gender gap appear to face an age-old and powerful barrier: gender bias, and specifically biases about their leadership. Many Boys and Girls Expressed Bias Against Girls as Leaders in Powerful Professions.

Key Findings:

  1. Many boys and girls expressed bias against girls as leaders in powerful professions.
  2. Students Were Least Likely to Support Granting More Power to White Girls as Council Leaders.
  3. White Girls Appear to be Biased Against Other White Girls as Leaders.
  4. Some Mothers Appear to be Biased Against Girls as Leaders.
  5. Biases Against Girls have Many Causes.
  6. Awareness of Bias Appears to Matter.


  1. Check your own biases.
  2. Cultivate family practices that prevent and reduce bias.
  3. Teach teens to spot and effectively confront stereotypes and discrimination.
  4. Don’t just let boys be boys.
  5. Challenge teens’ assumptions and beliefs.
  6. Use programs and strategies that build girls’ leadership skills
  7. Use this report to spur discussion.

Read more about the article and more details on the recommendations.

Making Caring Common Project

Gloria Manchester is President of Leadership Education Action Programs (LEAP) and CARTE, Inc. a 501C3 nonprofit.

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