Balance For Better? 5 Ways to Bring Young Women Into Decision-Making Spaces
This International Women’s Day, G(irls)20 is thrilled to add our voices to the theme: Balance for Better. We have long believed that in order to tip the scale toward balance, we must start by ensuring #youngfemaleleaders are in the room with decision-makers.
Last November, G(irls)20 brought a delegation of young women from around the world to the Women’s Forum in Paris. Funded by Johnson & Johnson, G(irls)20 conducted a workshop that asked participants: what are the best strategies to equip young women to make an impact on the decision-making spaces they enter? This is what we heard:
- Build networks through women-centered events: We heard loud and clear from participants that the most valuable tool they want is a network. Events that remove the barriers for young women to participate (by waiving costs or providing them a special role) help young women see themselves reflected in the sectors they want to make an impact on. Programs such as the Diverse Voices for Change Project — which increases female participation in politics — can be scaled to include other sectors such as business, technology, education and healthcare.
- Invest in training: Rather than hope young women pick up these skills on their own, invest in programs to teach transferrable leadership and communication skills. Ultimately, programming must promote confidence so that young women are comfortable using their voice, when given a platform. This is why we love our Canadian-based program, Girls on Boards, which teaches young female leaders both the “hard skills” (governance or financials) and the “essential skills” (negotiation or selling your idea) to have influence in their role as a board member on non-profit boards across Canada.
- Recognise barriers: When working with young women, recognize and acknowledge the ways in which institutionalised racism, misogyny and ageism shape conversations and decisions. Use an equity lens when building programs to gain valuable diverse perspectives.
- Trust their decision-making process: When we value one type of experience over another, it can lead those in powerful positions to not take young women seriously. Young women bring lived experience and, often, the best understanding of their communities. When young women’s opinions are not fairly considered, it can affect their willingness to participate. Encourage young women in the room to speak up, to share their experience and expertise – ensure their perspectives are valued!
- Let them have skin in the game: Whether it’s a vote at your non-profit table or a page in your committee’s report, provide young women a stake in the decision. This is a great way for an organization to give its young leaders a vote of confidence. An example of this is the “shadow comex” (shadow executive committees) programmes which brings young employees together based on their skills and diversity- which means they must represent various professions within their company. These shadow comex committees meet in parallel of the classic executive committee, with the same agenda. This allows young people to bring up new ideas and challenge old paradigms in those companies. Additionally, it allows companies to recognise the participation of youth in practice, not just in theory.
By: Heather Barnabe, CEO, G(irls)20