by Susan McPherson
This week, UN Women and SAP hosted a forum focused on the advancement of women and girls in the innovation, technology and entrepreneurship fields. Promoting gender equality in these industries requires multiple approaches, from passing equal pay legislation to changing corporate culture to increasing the visibility of female role models. Meredith Walker, the co-founder of Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls and a speaker at the forum, suggests another approach: building confidence early on. Through Smart Girls’ digital content and programming, Meredith and her team help young women cultivate their authentic selves and develop their unique voices. In doing so, Smart Girls lays the groundwork for these young women’s continued success – in the workplace and beyond.
“Amy (Poehler) and I talked a lot about our pre-teen and teen years and remembered how good it felt when someone wanted to hear what we had to say. When someone let us be our goofy selves,” said Walker, when asked about the inspiration behind Smart Girls. “Being yourself is a challenge because the world seems to always have other ideas about who you should be. Learning to be yourself takes time, effort and determination. It comes only after asking yourself who you are and what is you, honestly you.”
A big focus for Smart Girls right now is giving girls a place to voice their opinions, thoughts and concerns — but also emphasizing the importance of having opinions that are based on fact. Not only does this lead to more constructive dialogue, but it also teaches young women how to be effective advocates for the issues they care about. According to Walker: “Gender equality is critical because it is about being valued as a human being. It is about the dignity of every person. If we are not of equal dignity and value in one place, then we may also be devalued and dismissed in others as well. If you want to be an advocate, you have to know what you are talking about. We live in a time when actual facts are (in some quarters) considered suspect. Yet, facts are vital for informed decisions and an informed electorate. It is worthwhile to realize the limitations of our own views and to become better informed every chance we get.”
Make gender equality a priority.