Teaching the Future Women of Today: Empathy
By Joy Kashima
Today is International Women’s Day and the month is Women’s History Month, so why isn’t this a time to reflect on how much the future of women depends on the ability of the next generation to teach those who have passed on and to set the precedent for the role of women into adulthood?
In a society that teaches girls from birth to believe they can’t have as much, be as accomplished, or lead as men, and most importantly make a difference in the world, what is our perspective? Why is it so shocking that people celebrate Women’s History Month and Women’s Day without acknowledging how today’s teen girls are at such a critical point in their lives that they have such influence?
When it comes to perception and judgment, young girls – the future leaders of the world – must find empathy.
In 2018, a new study conducted by the Pew Research Center revealed that just 41 percent of people (a study defined as 5% of the American public) felt that teen girls should be required to answer personal questions on the part of their teachers when they apply for college. Similarly, a University of Houston study this year found that a big chunk of America’s teenagers still hold the idea that women shouldn’t have a salary of at least 80 percent of men. These types of attitudes are very upsetting to me because they have a dramatic effect on children’s perceptions of gender role equality in adult life.
In order to set a precedent for more value and respect in terms of perceptions of women, girls must teach their children not only how to respect women, but to value women. This will, in turn, have an important influence on the adults and institutions that these teens interact with, thus establishing a new standard for gender roles and expectations in society.
For example, when a teenage girl ages and decides she no longer wants to stay home all day doing housework for her father, she can still foster respect by talking to him about who gets dinner done and be financially responsible without losing respect in her family. Similarly, when a teen girl moves out, she should discuss with her mom, step-dad, and father what is involved and communicate her feelings if something bothers her. She can continue to mentor younger girls and address their issues.
When it comes to choosing an education major, teens can build a foundation that they can take to higher education and the world of work. A college degree is an asset, but so is female entrepreneurship. In 2012, a Money Magazine study suggested that men out-earn women, who put more effort into their careers, yet are receiving less in recognition. So if a teen girl decides she wants to be a doctor or lawyer, as opposed to a stockbroker or secretary, we should expect her to first become more aware of ways she can become her own boss and grow within that industry – maybe in small steps, but one step at a time.
Young women can have a big impact on the mindset of adult women if they start with building what’s around them.
By focusing on setting an example, teenagers can set a foundation that they can take to higher education and the world of work. With skill-based internships to challenge themselves and improve their skills, young women can have a big impact on the mindset of adult women if they start with building what’s around them.