- Girls make higher grades throughout their school years.
- Enactment of Title IX legislation has resulted in a ten-fold increase in the number of female athletes playing at the high school and college levels.
- Women are earning bachelor’s degrees and entering graduate/professional programs at higher rates than their male counterparts.
- Girls as young as 6 years old develop gendered beliefs about intelligence and innate abilities and avoid games meant for “really, really smart children.”
- Girls are more routinely exposed to sexualized depictions of girls and women in the media, which is related to higher rates of self-objectification and reinforces unrealistic standards of beauty, leading to adverse cognitive, emotional, and mental health effects.
- Girls and women are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and disordered eating, which are in part attributed to cultural influences.
While this is concerning, there are things we can do to buffer the impact of these negative influences on our girls:
- Focus on the process, not the outcome. Often, girls are praised for doing well on a test or making good grades. Because they are often reinforced for these outcomes, they may hesitate to stretch themselves and engage in a more challenging task. By focusing more on effort and work ethic, we can alleviate some of these performance-based stressors many girls experience.
- Monitor and encourage critical consumption of media. Girls today are inundated with images of girls and women that are oversexualized and inconsistent with more realistic representations. Girls may internalize these beliefs, which can compromise their self-image and lead to more serious mental health issues. We can encourage girls to consider the impact that exposure to different forms of media has on their mood – “How do you feel when you spend time on social media?” We can also help them to develop a more analytical approach to their perceptions of media portrayals of girls and women. For example, we can point out the use of software programs to digitally enhance images and even point them to websites that show before and after images of touched up photographs.
- Foster open communication. Open communication promotes a healthy dialogue and a safe space for girls to talk about the challenges they face and to seek constructive solutions. Listen attentively, making eye contact and giving your full attention. Don’t interrupt or focus on your response, but rather listen carefully and paraphrase to show you heard her. Rather than telling her what to do or how to feel, work together to help her gain insights and come to a conclusion that is authentic for her.
If you’d like the know more about developing resilience for girls in today’s world, please join us on Wednesday, February 15th at 11 am for a lunch and learn with Laura H. Choate, LSU professor and author of Swimming Upstream: Parenting Girls for Resilience in a Toxic Culture. Event details and registration are located at https://goo.gl/forms/yRcGXn9gDmsU1Ojh2
Choate, L. H. (2008). Girls’ and women’s wellness: Contemporary counseling issues and interventions. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.
Dangerfield, W. (2012). Before and after title IX: Women in sports. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/06/17/opinion/sunday/sundayreview-titleix-timeline.html?_r=0#/#time12_265
Voyer, D. & Voyer, S. D. (2014) Gender differences in scholastic achievement: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 140 (4), 1174-1204.
Yong, E. (2017). 6-year-old girls already have gendered beliefs about intelligence. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/01/six-year-old-girls-already-have-gendered-beliefs-about-intelligence/514340/
Jodi is Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC) and is currently serving as the Upper School Counselor at Episcopal School of Baton Rouge. She has a Master’s of Education with a concentration in Mental Health and a Certificate of Education Specialist with a concentration in School Counseling from Louisiana State University. Prior to working as a school counselor, she worked in various clinical settings, including a community-based family clinic, a university mental health clinic, and a substance abuse detox facility. Jodi’s areas of focus and experience include school counseling, adolescent and family counseling, individual and group counseling, identity development, girls’ and women’s wellness, military personnel and veterans, academic and career counseling, and substance abuse treatment.