My feminist Mother once gave me a stern talking to when I used the word “chick” to describe a girl. Though raising confident girls is a new focus in my life, it’s no secret to anyone that knows me that women’s issues (equality, empowerment) have long been a thing for me. I’m embarrassed to admit that in college I dropped out of Computer Programming because I was the only woman in the class. In the end, I pursued one of the more woman-friendly technical programs in University, Digital Communications. In early 2009 I attended my first Montreal Girl Geeks event, a few months later I was running them. For the last 6 years I’ve watched a local community which helps women break into tech grow from dozens to thousands. Clearly, there’s a disconnection somewhere.
In July 2014 came my daughter Lia. I began to worry (shock) that despite my best intentions, she too might find herself maneuvering many of the same disconnections. Flash forward a return to work as a marketing exec (at a tech company where I was the only mother) and here I am expecting girl no. 2 in May… Still nagging at the back of my mind: What can I do to help raise confident daughters to the point where they will never need a special community for women? And I had a hunch that I wasn’t alone.
I had some ideas, but I needed some of that oh-so-sweet validation.
I ran a survey to figure out how common it was that those raising girls think about these things. What problems they face (if any), what would make it all easier (where my idea comes in, but I’ll get to that later), and how they’d know they were successful.
I shared the survey with a small personal email list of 14 people who have young girls in their lives, on a few Facebook groups (2 focused on parenting, 1 on women in tech) and ran a small Facebook ad campaign for $50 asking people to complete the survey. This all yielded 142 responses. Not enough to be super scientific, but enough to know if I was off my rocker.
Of the respondents, 70% (100) were mothers, 12% (17) Aunts and 9% (13) Fathers. The other 9% spread across family friends, teachers and grandparents. Most, 64.5% (91) of respondents, focus their attention on just 1 or 2 girls, but if we look at the amount of girls all respondents influence, more than 357 girls are represented in this survey.
Interestingly, 62% of respondents focus on girls who are 5 years old or less which tells me that most are newer parents.
The Importance of Raising Confident Girls
Incredibly, 40% of respondents said they think about ways to empower the girls in their lives every day… yep, every day. Not surprisingly, mothers think about the empowerment of their daughters more often than aunts, fathers etc, who sway more heavily to a few times a week or month.
When asked to rank how important girls’ empowerment was to them on a scale of 1 to 5, 56% said 5 out of 5 and 39% said 4 out of 5. Huge.
What happens when we compare how often it affects their buying experiences on a scale of 1 (never) to 5 (every time)?
Again, stated overall importance doesn’t translate perfectly to day-to-day habits (as we’d expect), but the empowerment of girls is on the brain a ton…
Brands and Retailers, What The What?
When buying things for the girls in their life, 64% of respondents think about how gender neutral or positive it is every time or nearly every time they go to make a purchase. How are retailers and brands answering that call? …Hello?
Sadly, 64% of respondents are struggling to find gender neutral or positive items when they go to make a purchase.
Ugh, whyyyyy is this still a problem in 2016?
39% of those who struggle when shopping mostly blame local retailers, worse still, 23% remain convinced that there are no good options.
Notably (and maybe a little scary), of the 36% who said they don’t struggle when shopping, 31% of them said it was because gender neutrality or positivity isn’t something they think about often when pulling out their wallets. (Might be worth cross referencing those with their importance ratings above, hmm.)
Comparing the 2 groups (those who struggle vs. those who don’t) is pretty interesting. (Click the image to enlarge)
Local retailers seem to be holding the (ahem, empty) bag on this one. People who do struggle say the problem is local availability, and only 16% of those who don’t struggle say they can find stuff locally. Ouch.
It’s sad also to see that 23% of those who struggle believe that nothing good exists and that 14% can’t even find good options online. Fail.
What Are The Standout Brands & Retailers?
Unsurprisingly, those who struggle to find good options were much more vocal when asked for standout brands and retailers than those who don’t struggle, 110 to 36 in fact. Here are all of them tallied to the top 5:
|Top 5 Good Brands or Retailers
||Top 5 Bad Brands or Retailers
It’s worth mentioning that “All of them are bad” was mentioned almost as many times as Toys “R” Us and Disney. And isn’t it curious that LEGO appears in both lists? Maybe it’s something to do with the brand’s mixed messages over the years…?
Before moving on I want to share a comment that someone left when asked for standout brands or retailers:
I genuinely loathe the movement to remove gender from society. It has NOTHING to do with female empowerment. At all.
I agree that removing gender from society having nothing to do with women’s empowerment. The problem, as I see it anyway, lies in where gender stereotypes become a limiting factor for experiences or opportunities. In the case of LEGO, recent. complaints. are. many. (maybe due to the stark contrast of being so against stereotyping in the 70’s and 80’s). But I’ll let you come to your own conclusions.
Empowering The Empowerer
Respondents highlighted a few areas which would help them to inspire and promote confidence in the girls in their lives. When asked what kind of content they’d want to receive, the top 3 responses were:
- Tips and resources for parents/caretakers
- Inspiring stories of empowerment (role models)
- Book/movie/TV recommendations for girls.
Here’s how all content types stacked up:
59% of respondents said they’d subscribe to receive ongoing content about girls’ empowerment, 32% said maybe, and only 9% said no. It’s looking like the empowerers could use some support themselves.
What An Empowered, Confident Girl Looks Like
My favourite section by far of the survey: looking into the future, how would you know you’d been successful in raising a confident and empowered girl?
68% of respondents say that how their daughter expects to be treated by others would be their sign that they’d successfully empowered her. 56% said that how she treats others would be indication, and 54% said a positive body image would mean they’d done their job. #LOVE
Here’s how all the options stacked up (respondents were limited to 3 only):
Notably, what a girl wears and her obsession with pink or princesses isn’t being used as indication if she’s feeling confident or empowered. Testament to the fact that removing gender isn’t a priority for respondents.
Would This Make it Easier For You?
The results of this survey have finally tipped me over the edge of wanting to do something more; those of us trying to raise confident girls can use all the help we can get, even if help is as simple as delivering practical advice, when you need it. There are so so many great resources and inspiring examples of empowerment that I want more people to know about. So, I’m in the process of building a newsletter for mothers (and others) raising confident little girls to make it a little easier.
If this sounds like something you’d be interested in you can subscribe here. I’d also love to hear your feedback in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!