While increasing girls’ access to education and training is crucial to their empowerment and success, it’s often not enough.
Young women are earning higher degrees than ever before and making up the majority of the classroom. However, they continue to get hired less, be paid less, and be appreciated as members of society less.
This disconnect between the encouragement they receive to seek out their own success and the realities they face in the world was investigated by Soroptimist International of the Americas.
In their report, they identified how girls thought they could best achieve their dreams. In addition to a quality education and knowledge of available opportunities, 44 percent of survey respondents said that a mentor to help and guide them was one of the most important things that could assist them towards their goals.
Mentors provide their mentees with invaluable support. They act as examples of strength, give them necessary resources, and provide the direction or skills needed to make their dreams a reality.
The relationships developed between mentors and mentees also leads to many educational and behavioral benefits for teens.
Studies have shown that mentorships lead to a reduction in bullying and that children with mentors have more confidence and fewer behavioral problems. High school graduation rates increase, healthier relationships are created, and interpersonal skills are improved.
While mentoring has great benefits for all teens, those in disadvantaged situations or dealing with hardships have been found to particularly benefit from mentorships. Too often, teens facing poverty, violence, or pregnancy lack adult support. But research has found that with mentors they are twice as likely to attend college and less likely to break the law or abuse drugs.
All of this is due to the support that helped them believe in their own ability to succeed.
One of the study’s authors noted that, “Comments from study participants indicate that their mentors weren’t necessarily doing anything extraordinary, just being involved and treating the young person as an important human being.”
The idea that providing mentorships to girls experiencing hardships transforms their lives is one of the main ideas behind Soroptimist’s Dream It, Be It: Career Support for Girls program. This program gives girls the information and resources needed to be successful and often connects them with professional role models.
Since it launched in 2015, over 35,000 girls around the world have participated and developed the skills and self-confidence they need to pursue their dreams.
To learn how you can help or start your own Dream It, Be It program, visit the Soroptimist website.
Ashleen Knutsen is a science writer and editor in Los Angeles. After a decade of experience in engineering and research, she decided to pursue a career in science communications to not only spark women and girls’ interest in STEM, but to let them know that they too can change the world.