Teach­ing young women to cheer for, rather than work against, one an­other

StarMetro Edmonton - - MOVING FORWARD - Phyl­lis Fag­ell

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.

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