Thinking about the pressing issues of today, such as global warming and environmental degradation, it’s not politicians or even scientists who are setting the agenda but young women and girls. Look at Greta Thunberg, the charismatic force behind the school strike for climate, and the sisters Ella and Caitlin McEwan, whose petition to stop fast food chains dishing out plastic toys has attracted 400,000 signatures.
A determination to stand up and throw down a challenge to governments and corporations shows that equality for different voices has come a long way, not just for girls but for all young people, who have the greatest stake in these issues.
It’s a hugely positive momentum, but how do we maintain it?
The key is to continue to ensure that girls learn the skills and get the opportunities to express themselves on these issues and to become confident and active members of society.
Part of this is encouraging girls to pursue technical education and work. There is traction here; A level entry to science, technical, engineering and mathematics subjects is up 6.9% on last year according to a Women's Business Council 2018 report. The gender pay gap is closing as well, as revealed by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission but all sorts of lingering inequalities still need to be confronted.
Role models are another powerful force. Young girls look up to older girls and women, and there is value in this ‘ageing up’. It’s not about forcing girls to grow up quicker, but giving a road map, to see what might be achieved.
The route to adulthood can be bumpy, with lots of distractions. But the demands on girls’ time and attention need not compete with personal growth. Instead, we need ways to channel them both into areas that nurture lifelong interests, promote fulfilling work and build a powerful sense of self-worth, in other words, develop the idea of ‘personal brand’, so girls can continue to help to change the world for the better.
So, what small steps can we take to capture and keep girls’ interest and focus it for the future? What simple strategies can we deploy to inspire girls to fulfil their boundless potential?