Teaching young women to cheer for, rather than work against, one another
When Ashley Eckstein, an actress and entrepreneur, started performing professionally in Grade 5, the other girls in her class taunted her relentlessly. Now 37, Eckstein recently brought her 13-yearold niece to a girls leadership summit to show her a different dynamic: hundreds of girls celebrating one another’s accomplishments in fields including writing and social activism.
“The cheers, hugs and high-fives literally gave me goose bumps,” she said. “Something very right was happening in that room full of confident girls all doing their own thing.”
The girls may not have realized it, but they were pushing back against a powerful tendency for girls and women to view one another as threats rather than allies or part of a support system.
“Scarcity theory might lead young girls to believe that there are limits around how many good things can happen to any one person, which could also lead them to believe that their own success will be limited,” said Caroline Adams Miller, a positive psychology expert and the author of
When Miller speaks to groups of female professionals, she often asks: Does anyone feel like one of the biggest challenges isn’t just how men have treated other women, but also women shooting one another from inside the tent?
“It’s not half the room raising their hands — it’s 100 per cent of the women,” she said.
“Unfortunately, it’s been communicated to us over the years that there are fewer spots for women — a limited inventory,” added Donna Orender, the author of
And teens have their own concerns. A recent survey by Plan International USA and PerryUndem found that 30 per cent of girls ages 10 to 19 see fewer opportunities at school for them than for boys, particularly in sports.
“UNFORTUNATELY, IT’S BEEN COMMUNICATED TO US OVER THE YEARS THAT THERE ARE FEWER SPOTS FOR WOMEN — A LIMITED INVENTORY.” Author Donna Orender
Girls who perceive that it’s a zero-sum game are less likely to support one another, but experts say that if girls band together, they can expand their options.