Mummy Buzz


Study: How to Raise Strong Girls (and Sensitive Boys)

No more "Boys will be boys"

how to raise happy kids

We claim we want to raise strong girls, but what if we're reinforcing the very gender biases that hold them back? 

According to new research cited in the Washington Post, not only did 23 percent of girls and 40 percent of boys admit they liked their political leaders to be males, they felt similarly about business leaders. 

And more women than men said they preferred a male boss.

Those biases run deep, and they start early. When it comes to school, students - and the mothers of those students - were least likely overall to support a council run by "white girls."

So what does this say about us? We want female leaders in theory, but maybe not in practice. If we want to change things for our daughters and their daughters, we need to rethink our own thinking...

Here is a summary of the Post's five tips for checking unconscious biases before they get passed on to the next generation:

1. Watch your tongue

"Think about what conclusions you jump to about what boys or girls should dress like, act like, think about and feel." This is where your natural biases reside. Counter stereotypes with images of women and men doing jobs other than traditional, gender roles. 

Be mindful of automatically referring to girls as "pretty" and boys "strong." Use gender neutral language, such as "mail carrier" instead of "mailman." Generalizations that start with "all boys" and "all girls" are red flags for bias.

2. Free your kids of gender roles

Don't base chores on gender stereotypes. Where possible, encourage mixed gender friendships and play. Provide both boys and girls a wide assortment of toys, TV shows, activities, etc, that don't conform to what's necessarily expected of a particular gender. 

I admit I've had to bite my tongue more than once when my son watches his new favourite show - about a troupe of wand-waving sparkly fairies. It's Girly with a capital G, yet he seems to really enjoy it so I don't want to ruin it for him.

3. Call out gender bias when and where you see it

Start the discussion early when you see or hear examples of stereotyping, and suggest ways for both boys and girls to address bias when they encounter it in their own lives. For example, “That commercial shows girls not caring about school as much as about how they look. That doesn’t seem fair.”

4. Nix “boys will be boys" from your lexicon

Too often boys are let off the hook instead of held accountable for "demeaning stereotypes and remarks about girls." If you don't condone it, correct it immediately and don't let them pass it off as a joke.

Teach boys to respect and value girls and women, and to experience their own vulnerability and emotional expression. 

5. Foster leadership opportunities

The best way to learn to be a leader is to be a leader. Encourage opportunities for leadership and public speaking in the community, so girls can gain skills and confidence without fear of being bossy or worrying about what their friends will think. Set up mentorship occasions that tie in with personal passions, and highlight examples of women leaders in the media, i.e. the lead scientist in the recent Pluto mission.

Spill it: How do you tackle gender bias in your home?