Empowering Girls To Boldly Speak Up: Building Confidence and Leadership In Schools

Boosting girls' self-confidence and growing their leadership skills at school can change their futures.

May 13, 2024


Tomorrow Woman

One of the incredible things about running our girl empowerment workshops is seeing the immediate impact on teenage participants.

We know that the teenage years can hit girls’ self-confidence hard. And we’re not just talking from personal experience.

Studies show that teenage girls start to silence themselves. They speak up less and lose their self-identity. This can contribute to mental illness, falling self-esteem, lost leadership opportunities, self-harm and even relationship abuse.

But when girls are encouraged to speak up, we notice a change. Girls reclaim their voices and in doing so, regain their self-confidence. They decide what they want their future to look like—and they take agency in making that future happen. They are able to boldly be the most authentic version of themselves.

Our women’s empowerment programs in Australia are one way to build agency and confidence in girls, but they’re not the only option. Teachers also have the power to help girls find their voices in and outside of the classroom.

How Schools Can Help Teenage Girls Be Leaders

1. Create Space For Self-Expression

We hear teenage girls share powerful stories and ideas every day in our workshops. But on a regular school day, they don’t always have the confidence to express themselves.

In secondary school, we start to notice a gender-based confidence gap. Teenage girls report having significantly less self-assuredness than teenage boys. Sadly, this confidence gap continues throughout a woman’s lifetime, closing only when she turns 80.

One way to tackle the confidence gap? By creating more opportunities for girls to express themselves in school. You can do this through creative tasks, student-led projects or classroom debates.

When setting group work, pay attention to the group sizes and dynamics. Are the girls speaking as much as the boys? Who is taking on a leadership role? And is everyone contributing ideas? You may need to reassign groups or structure tasks differently so that everyone is speaking up and being heard.

2. Praise Girls For More Than Their Academic Success

We know that praise can help boost students’ self-confidence. And we know that grades are important. But just praising based on schoolwork can send girls the wrong message. It can tell them that their academic success is the only thing that matters.

This can result in girls’ self-esteem being tied to their grades. It also leads to a more risk-averse, play-it-safe approach.

Instead, praise girls’ efforts, creativity, teamwork and leadership. This shows your female students that you see value in who they are and what they do, regardless of how they do on that maths test.

3. Encourage Girls To Take Risks

Part of building confidence in girls is showing them that it’s okay to make mistakes. More teenage girls than boys are afraid of failure, something that we see all around the world. And the better girls do in school, the worse their fear of failing becomes.

This fear leads many teenage girls to take fewer risks, limit their choices and silence themselves. It prevents them from stepping up for leadership opportunities, and it can eat away at their self-esteem.

Teachers can tackle this by proving that failure is not a bad thing. When girls take risks, praise the lessons learnt, even if they don’t pay off. Provide students with opportunities to try again. Instead of focusing on what went wrong, talk about how they can fix the situation.

When girls realise that failing isn’t that bad, but rather, a part of life, they’re not afraid to attempt bold new things.

4. Provide Opportunities To Lead

In our workshops, we see that girls want to take the lead. But many of them have an inner voice that tells them not to. That same voice tells them that it’s better to not take a risk, that someone else can do it better, and that they should just stay silent.

As teachers, you can encourage your female students to ignore that voice of self-doubt. Ask them to take the lead in group projects. Suggest that they sign up for school clubs or volunteering.

Sports is another great way to encourage girls to take on leadership roles. And, studies show that it can also significantly boost girls’ self-confidence.

5. Develop Girls’ Skills

While we’re sure you do an amazing fantastic job helping your students learn the material and prepare for tests, you can also help them learn the leadership skills they’ll need outside of the classroom. Public speaking, negotiation, problem-solving, conflict resolution and decision-making skills can all be developed with your support.

We find that girls are more likely to take on positive messages when they’re the ones leading the conversation. That’s why in our workshops, we invite girls to talk about their experiences and opinions. And you can do the same thing in your school.

Ask your female students what activities they would like to do. Work out how these can build their confidence and develop leadership skills. And then, put the theory into practice. Encourage your students to help with the organisation and decision-making. Get them to lead parts of the activity. Encourage them to provide feedback and suggest improvements.

6. Run Girl Empowerment Workshops

We get that teachers can struggle to have meaningful conversations with students about hard topics, such as self-esteem and anxiety. In fact, that’s why we run workshops for improving teacher-student communication.

But, teachers don’t have to do all the work alone. Our school-based workshops are led by a team of highly skilled facilitators who have all undergone a 6-month training program. We create a safe, non-judgemental space for participants to speak up about the challenges they face and develop personal agency through social emotional learning skill-building and find better strategies. These sessions can reinforce the positive messages your teachers are already providing.

Reflecting and sharing was definitely hard but the response I got was awesome I feel a lot more confident now talking about how I feel. This has really boosted my confidence in speaking up for myself. - Tomorrow Woman Student Participant

Find out more about our in-school workshops.

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