Overcoming gender bravery deficit

Gender gaps

INSTILLING a culture of failing forward and a healthy self-esteem in young people  goes a long way in  installing traits, such as confidence, bravery, determination and competence.

Through scaffolding they can develop metacognitive abilities, be guided and grounded until they are no longer afraid of falling. Pervasive bravery deficit is robbing women from leadership positions, political careers and techno-related opportunities inversely undermining their self-esteem and self-concept.

By puberty, girls are slightly more advanced in sensory and cognitive development, outperforming boys in all subjects, including math and science.  They are ahead at problem solving, demonstrate mature metacognitive abilities and improved emotional intelligence.

The process of eroding bravery inadvertently erupts during puberty, when one is now aware of one's socially ascribed gender status and gender differences become apparent. Through socialisation and shared experiences, one is  left with patterned culture and family tradition.

In the name of culture, gatekeepers reinforce and confirm what is expected of girls and how their behaviour. This transfer process  is underpinned by indoctrination, buttressed  by religious dogma and inversely passed to the next generation.

It appears that this pattern of gender attitudes and behaviours is now being manifested or replicated by non-intelligent actors and social media platforms, while maintaining existing attitudes about gender roles. Cultural stereotypes about body image aesthetics and beauty perfectionism remain dominant.

Research  shows  that gender differences regarding courage are believed to be caused by differing socialisations and expectations between sexes,such that men are conditioned to be more courageous than women.For instance, watching romantic movies is usually identified as a feminine behaviour while watching combat sports is related to masculinity .  Technological advances have shifted job markets towards STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers and are growing faster than ever, also widening the gender gap in this sector, leaving women behind. Further subscribing  to the notion that social conditioning inhibits girls' potential and thousands of hours spent on  care-work restrain them experimentation.

Similarly, bravery deficit is why women are underrepresented in boardrooms, politics and government, despite making up 52% of the population. Unfortunately, skills, experiences and strengths of women are consistently underused in almost all professions.

“Girls are taught to avoid risk and failure,” explains Reshma Saujani in her TED talk Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection.

“They are taught to play it safe, get all As. Boys, on the other hand, are taught to play rough, swing high, crawl to the top of the monkey bars and jump off.

“By the time they are adults, whether it is negotiating a raise or asking someone out on a date, they are habituated to take risk after risk. In other words, we are raising our girls to be perfect, and we are raising our boys to be brave.”

Demystifying the socialisation of perfection will take unified holistic action, from parents sensitisation   programmes to sisterhood self-esteem activities  that teach girls courage and  firm support systems.

Tech-savvy,Mandela Washington fellow and Ignite youth organisation founder Tadzi Madzima is at the fore front of  changing attitudes and shaping narratives with her organisation, which focuses on developing, mentoring and equipping youth to  become influential leaders in their local communities,schools and various civic areas.

Last year December,  Ignite Youth hosted  third  edition of  Ignite Youth Awards,aimed at recognising outstanding young people under the age of 35,with girls making up 60% of the nominees in various categories  ranging from socio-techno innovator,  influencers and teen changemakers  award.

It is up to us to celebrate efforts and consciously challenge the biases and social structures of gender bravery deficit.Promoting  prosocial behaviours and activities that support women and girls to  develop their self-esteem is vital in realising their potential.

Nyawo  is a development practitioner.

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