Part of the impact of a landmark election year is the inevitable urge to look toward the future. Where are we headed in terms of women’s leadership? Are we doing enough to support girls of color and their families? Are we supporting representation in leadership roles, mentorships, and educational leadership?
When it comes to building leadership skills in girls of color, we still have a long way to go. Organizations like LiveGirl and Girls Who Code aim to support girls of color with leadership skills, educational programs, and skills-based training programs, but the research surrounding the efficacy of these programs is unfortunately lacking. We don’t have a clear enough picture of girls’ confidence: particularly, the likelihood of Black and Latinx girls to self-identify as leaders, and see themselves represented in leadership positions within their schools and communities.
A new report from Girls Leadership, supported by Vodafone Americas Foundation, seeks to address the research gap surrounding the experiences of girls and girl-serving organizations putting in the work to present intersectional approaches and center the needs of girls of color.
In Ready to Lead, Girls Leadership and Vodafone Americas Foundation examine the barriers to leadership for girls of color, who make up over 50% of the U.S.’s girl population. The report examines the opportunities in place for Black and Latinx girls, as well as the institutional and implicit biases in place that create barriers for leadership cultivation and other opportunities.
“The report elevates two important issues,” says June Sugiyama, Director of Vodafone Americas Foundation. “First, that Black and Latinx girls feel poised to step into leadership—at school levels and beyond; second, that the barriers girls of color experience are primarily associated with their lack of proximity to adults who recognize their potential and help them nurture and build their strengths and abilities.”
Specifically, the report addresses the idea of mentorship and leadership within Black and Latinx communities, using a scoring system known as the Roets Rating Scale for Leadership (or RRSL).
“The data from the 600 teachers, 80% of whom are white, demonstrates how the teaching community not only fails to recognize the leadership assets of the Black and Latinx girls, but even views these assets as deterrents to leadership,” announced the Foundation in a press release about Ready to Lead. “The report even sheds light on what might be the cause for Black girls getting expelled at six times the rate of their white peers.”
Among the findings of the report are key statistics that point to the leadership opportunities and barriers in place for Black and Latinx girls:
- Black girls are the most likely to self-identify as leaders (48%) compared to girls of other races (36% of Latinx girls identify as leaders, 33% of multi-ethnic girls, 31% of white girls, and 25% of Asian girls).
- Over 1 in 3 Black and Latinx girls who score highly on the leadership scale have reported witnessing racial bias.
- The presence of a mentor in girls’ lives was positively correlated with higher scores on the Roets Leadership Scale as well as the earning of higher grades.
- Over 1 in 3 Black teachers in the study noted that at their schools, students of color experienced bias and unfair treatment.
- Black and Latinx girls score higher on the Roets Leadership Scale than girls of other races/ethnicities, even if they are in schools with predominantly white teachers. However, in schools with predominantly teachers of color, Black and Latinx girls score even higher on the leadership scale.
Ultimately, Ready to Lead shows the importance of investing in the leadership of girls of color, as well as the success parents and communities have had so far in instilling confidence in their girls.
“The research findings show how Black and Latinx parents and teachers of color are meeting challenges and successfully raising Black and Latinx girls to confidently identify as leaders, aspire to leadership, and develop leadership skills,” says Sugiyama. “The Vodafone Americas Foundation’s mission is to empower women and girls through technology. Most often, this leads to us supporting organizations that leverage technology and connectivity to solve pressing issues for women and girls around the globe. This time, however, it means to open new windows of knowledge to learn more and support the potential next generation of technology developers and leaders. We believe that empowering women and girls is a catalyst that will lead to equity and accessibility, especially within our very own industry.”
“We need more monumental studies like this to fill [the research gap] and examine factors that drive both leadership cultivation and opportunities for Black and Latinx girls,” she adds. “We can help these future leaders.”
Supporting research like the Ready to Lead report will help our industry get a clearer idea of our successes and failures, in order to better inform future campaigns. As we continue to invest in the next generation of diverse, woman-led leaders, we must also invest in research to understand where we came from, where we’re going, and how best to tackle our challenges together.
To download the full report, visit the Ready to Lead website at readytolead.girlsleadership.org.
About Girls Leadership: Girls Leadership is a national, educational nonprofit that aims to deepen our understanding of how race, gender, and income impact identity and leadership development for girls in the US.
About Vodafone Americas Foundation: Vodafone Americas Foundation is part of Vodafone’s global network of foundations. The foundation is affiliated with Vodafone, one of the world’s leading telecoms and technology service providers, which operates in 24 countries with partner networks in over 40 more countries, and has significant presence in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific and the United States. The Vodafone Americas Foundation fosters social change in global and local communities through innovative solutions. To learn more about the Vodafone Americas Foundation and their plans for corporate philosophy, visit their website to read about their mission for social change.
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