Helping Young Women
As a teacher of many years, I have often noticed that so often young women retreat into silence as the more aggressive males in the classroom dominate the conversations. As adults, we are a part of various groups of youth that we either teach or have casual conversations with daily. Today I want to point out how important it is to assist young women in becoming part of the discussions, to solicit their thoughts and opinions and let them know how significant their contribution is. When we take time to include them at all levels of life participation, they notice our efforts and frequently become our friends forever. They feel included and as they matter more than being overlooked. As young women move on from our guidance, they go to other groups and community efforts and are more encouraged to be a part of the conversations. They will likely still find it difficult, but over time they are encouraged to participate fully.
As an educator, our school had all young women groups where we would pull them together at lunch, buy some pizza or something and help them to practice their skills by digging into deep issues. We helped them process their anger, to vent their frustrations, and with their treatment. The topics were often things that they felt passionate about that needed resolution. As a high school assistant principal, I had one group of young women who were all a part of our English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. Although this group has changed titles over the years, their needs remain the same. They want to be treated fairly, equally and be able to participate fully and like they matter. So often that wasn’t the case. They would come into my office as a large group right before lunch. We would all sit down and launch into a conversation about which they had grave concerns. It might be how they had been treated, or a racially biased experience, or just feeling like as a group of young women they were not allowed to state their thoughts in a way that mattered. Sometimes the office would be loaded with high volumes of young women excitedly expressing themselves. It would become so loud that my administrative assistant would come into my office and ask me if everything was alright.
I always would answer, we are fine, they are just telling me about some of their concerns. Over time, I looked forward to their thoughts and time together. They would run their course of interest, we would talk about how to address them, and then they were quickly on their way. I didn’t realize until years later how much that helped me learn how to be effective as young women in a world that is male-dominated. We talked about justice, racial prejudice, treatment of women, their feelings of being overrun and unnoticed and so many other topics that disproportionately impacted their particular community and ethnicity.
Today I want to challenge all of us to pay attention to the participation of young women in our conversations. Draw them out, allow them to not only be heard but to follow-up on their thoughts to show that they matter. We need to help them to engage in higher levels of civic and community leadership, which starts at this very beginning level. To cite Megan Devenport, “Our young people are just looking for opportunities to connect and to be authentic and to have someone see them for who they are–as leaders and as influencers in our community–and to put them in a position to embrace and use their voice.” Glasgow, G. (2019). Bridging gaps for young women. The University of Denver Magazine, 19(2), 16-17.
This next week work to include and bring out the thoughts and ideas of young women in your daily deliberations. I think you will find their voices very refreshing and adding a new dimension to conversations.
Yours for Better Parenting,