GIRLS LEADERSHIP, a national, educational nonprofit started in 2009, announces new findings from READY TO LEAD, a groundbreaking research study that will monumentally impact the way that girls, especially Black and Latinx girls, are supported and taught to become skilled and ambitious leaders. These findings, released in partnership with lead sponsor Morgan Stanley, will inform new curriculum and pathways for leadership development for the diverse needs of 25 million girls across the U.S., initiating necessary changes within educational institutions to address systemic gender and racial injustices.
“We understand from the research findings that there is often a dangerous disconnect between the experiences and perspectives of our country’s teaching force—about 80% of whom are White women—and the girls—over 50% of whom are girls of color,” says Simone Marean, CEO and Cofounder of GIRLS LEADERSHIP. “This begged us to ask the question: What happens when Black and Latinx students, who know their power and already identify as leaders, speak up in a classroom? These findings forced us to think differently about how to properly support and train teachers to see the value—rather than the threat—of these strong voices. It also taught us that much more research is needed to understand this bias at the beginning, in elementary school.”
While attempting to better understand how and when girls develop their leadership identity and skills, GIRLS LEADERSHIP realized that existing studies were primarily focused on a very narrow scope of the population—White, middle class, and/or affluent girls. These studies did not account for important cultural distinctions for the majority of girls in the U.S.: girls of color.
“Morgan Stanley has a longstanding partnership with Girls Leadership and looks forward to working closely with them on the READY TO LEAD campaign, which will provide concrete actions to remove key barriers to leadership for young women of color,” says Susan Reid, Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Morgan Stanley. “Effecting positive and lasting change for marginalized communities is a central goal of our firm’s D&I efforts, and this campaign is a significant step in doing so for Black and Latinx women.”
GIRLS LEADERSHIP engaged Fluent Research to explore the internal and external factors that support and inhibit the leadership of girls of color. After surveying more than 2,000 girls and families and over 200 teachers nationally, and analyzing the qualitative and quantitative data, the organization determined the following:
- Black & Latinx Girls Are Ready to Lead: Black and Latinx girls have the highest levels of self-reported confidence, identify as leaders, and have leadership aspirations.
- Racial and Gender Bias Are the Key Barriers to Leadership: Black and Latinx girls identified the external factors of racial and gender bias present in their schools and broader society as significant obstacles to their leadership goals and opportunities.
- Teacher Bias Limits Leadership Opportunities: Students of color experience bias and unfair treatment in the form of not having the same opportunity to get leadership roles, teachers have lower expectations for Black and Latinx students compared to White students, and Black and Latinx experience harsher disciplinary actions than White students who exhibit the same behaviors.
- Teacher Support of Black and Latinx Girls’ Leadership Is Important: Black and Latinx girls score higher on the 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.
- Parents and Mentors Contribute Significantly to Positive Leadership Aspirations: Black and Latinx girls who have parents and mentors who think of and refer to them as leaders positively correlates with higher scores on the leadership scale as well as the earning of higher grades.
These findings quantify both the strengths and assets of Black and Latinx girls and proves that they are poised to step into leadership—at school and beyond. Yet, institutional racial and gender bias in educational organizations and the broader society prevent Black and Latinx girls from fully activating their potential.
GIRLS LEADERSHIP seeks to shed light on these disparities and their unfortunate impact on Black and Latinx girls in order to be a conduit of change for how we design girls’ leadership curriculum and teach them in the U.S.. Through its proprietary Power ColLABorative Training—a professional development for teachers and youth-serving professionals focused on culturally responsive, girl-centered leadership development—GIRLS LEADERSHIP aims to build on its programs and scale its reach based on these findings.
GIRLS LEADERSHIP—with the support of Morgan Stanley in its role as lead sponsor of the READY TO LEAD study—is helping to permeate policy, culture, and practices in order to tell a new story about what happens to the power of the voices and leadership aspirations of girls of color in adolescence.
To support the research study, GIRLS LEADERSHIP is launching a social media campaign that focuses on encouraging Black and Latinx women and girls to share their personal stories about embracing their leadership abilities and finding their voice via the #ReadyToLead social media hashtag. The campaign will create a groundswell of community sharing while demanding necessary policy and systemic change to rebuild schools as the foundation of leadership, influence, and power for all girls.
To learn more, visit readytolead.girlsleadership.org and join the conversation with #ReadyToLead.