How gender counter stereotypical role models can encourage Girls to reach for greatness

How gender counter stereotypical role models can encourage Girls to reach for greatness

Role models are important, especially for girls in the global south. It is critical to increase the visibility of women, mainly those who are striving in fields that have long been dominated by men due to gender bias, institutional barriers and negative stereotypes.

Children are exposed to gender stereotypes in the form of their immediate family, friends, school, and teachers, as well as through educational materials and pop culture. On the other hand, reinforced by social environments

When children see men and women in various roles, they form gender stereotypes within their cultural environment. In turn, these behaviours shape their choices of academic and sporting activities throughout their childhood to adolescence.

Research has shown that girls are discouraged from pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) careers if they are unable to see other women who appear and act like them.

The current uneven distribution of women in different professional roles also serves as a psychological barrier for women to enter certain academic and high status professional fields.

Subsequently many efforts to encourage girls to enter fields were women are underrepresented and stereotyped, are based on the idea that exposure to counter-stereotyped female role models will encourage non-traditional behaviours.

For instants, many organizations have implemented interventions to encourage girls to think about non-traditional career choices such as a female mechanic, scientist or builder.

Thus, when girls see women rising on their own terms, it encourages and stimulates   their ambition. For example, girls are more likely to study STEM subjects following interaction with women in the field.

Nonetheless not all women want to be scientist or politicians, but diversifying the spotlight on role models to maximize relatability can increase girls’ self-confidence and readiness to compete in all areas of life. Thus, narrowing role models can be counterproductive if they are perceived as being too far away.

The lack of visibility on women role models in various sectors affects not only societal assumptions about women’s capacity to compete in all aspects, but also what we envision for women moving forward. Increasing women’s visibility in all areas of work is essential for women’s empowerment and gender equality.

It requires real-world examples of what women and girls can accomplish if given the chance to change ingrained beliefs. A youth-led agribusiness Fresh value produce, that provides healthy food such as vegetables and value addition has emerged as one of the innovative agribusinesses proving that women can unlock the value of agriculture.

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Fresh value produce founder Precious Mudondo is transforming many lives through job creation, connecting farmers to the market, and mentoring upcoming agric-prenuers via the Angeline Nyazuwa foundation. A graduate from the academy of women entrepreneurs class of 2023 and the three time award winning women in agriculture looks forward to  expand her agribusiness to markets across the nation.

Lovemore Nyawo

Lovemore Nyawo is a development practitioner and a gender expert and My Afrika Magazine columnist.

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