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As a 16-year-old girl, I can’t escape it. The desire to be heard, to fulfill my potential, even though I am not quite able to annihilate the pressure and constant worry about what this or that person thinks. It is a never-ending cycle. In my younger childhood years, I was completely oblivious to the stress women face every day…and then reality began to sink in and it became evident that the world which I thought was whole, in which everyone was equal, had been pulled apart into different sections…equality non-existent.
It is clear that I do not stand alone, but instead with millions of women around the world, all with a lack of belief in our own value, in our own worth and ability to succeed and achieve. It is this lack of belief which tempers our ambitions, holding us back. The psychologist Wiebke Bleidorn did a study recently which analysed data from over 985,000 men and women across 48 different countries, asking them to rate the phrase “I see myself as someone who has high self-esteem”.
Lo and behold, the findings showed that in nearly all cultures, men have higher self-esteem. On average, women do not have as much power as men – there are more men called Peter [6.5%] leading companies, than there are women [5.75%]. So, what is the impact of this absence of self-assurance? Inevitably, it makes women less likely to pursue new challenges, to take risks… It’s safer to stick to the ‘status quo’. This consequently means that opportunities are consistently being missed, which can be debilitating for us.
Even at my age, I have experienced this. On average, in my school, girls are more likely to do better in their exams. Their tenacity and desire to study is much greater than that of the boys. So why do women feel subordinate and lack self-confidence and self-esteem? I have spent dozens of days being afraid to step out of my home because of ‘needing’ to look good, craving validation from people – boys – that I am ‘pretty’. I have come to the realisation that this is something that is completely subjective, despite the media having set views of how we should look, making us question ‘Am I good enough?’ ‘Do I look good enough?’
Other women, however, still struggle with this every single day. So how can we bridge this gender gap? There is no quick method for eradicating this self-doubt within us. However, role models are very powerful. For example, Alicia Keys has inspired young girls and young adults like myself not to wear make-up. Keys said: ‘’I don’t want to cover up any more. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing.” Whether or not this is totally true in her case, it has had an impact on your women I know. Women will become more empowered, put themselves forward, take more risks and move up the ladder if they feel their true selves are enough.
I want to finish off with this quote from Forbes writer Margie Warrell: “Too often women overestimate the risks and underestimate themselves. Only by doing the very things we’re afraid of can we come to realise how little reason we ever had to fear. The only way to build confidence and courage is by acting with it.”
*Meditations of a Millennial is written by a rotating group of sixth form students.