According to Stats Canada, women have outpaced men in university graduation since the 1990’s; this trend is projected to continue with more than 65% of university graduates currently women. Most fields, even in the 90’s, had more female than male graduates: health, law, social sciences, humanities, education, and business management. There are only three fields that still see fewer women than men graduate: math and computer science, architecture and engineering, and protective services; but less than 15% of all students graduate in these fields. Most of today’s leaders, even in the technology industry, come from a variety of educational backgrounds. There have been plenty of women in the pipeline since the early 90’s to identify, mentor, and promote into senior leadership and board positions.
So, what are the missing ingredients that have kept women out of the boardroom and executive ranks? Many will say it is confidence, acceptance, and support. Several organizations globally and locally are addressing this problem with young girls before they become university age; two such organizations are Technovation and ambiSHEous.
Technovation is a global technology entrepreneurship program that encourages young girls in middle school and high school to pursue technology and business fields. An annual challenge is run across more than 100 countries globally. Young girls work in teams to build a mobile app that solves a community problem, write a business plan that supports their idea, and pitch their start-up to a panel of judges. Professional women, who serve as impressive role models, mentor the girls as they work through the program. These amazing mentors often continue to support the girls throughout their future careers. Participating in Technovation Challenge gives young girls the increased confidence they need to pursue technology fields and to believe they can accomplish anything.
ambiSHEous is a local organization that was founded on the premise girls should be encouraged to lead early and should be, not only accepted, but honoured for their bold ambition. They combine entrepreneurship training, citizenship education, and leadership development to shape the ambitions of girls in a positive, world-changing way. Like Technovation, ambiSHEous knows that confidence is the result of skills, knowledge, and experience; which is why they focus on educating girls in financial literacy, entrepreneurship, civic engagement, and social change. They equip girls with the valuable skills, real-life know-how, and confidence they need to step forward and lead.
It is through global and local programs like Technovation and ambiSHEous that girls are developing the confidence they need to be future leaders. These types of programs are reminding young girls that it is perfectly acceptable to be bold and ambitious; and they are encouraging young girls to tackle tough world problems. As the pace of female university graduates continues to rise and as young girls acquire the much-needed confidence, acceptance, and support to be future leaders, it could very well be ‘Our Turn’.