It’s impossible to see into the future (unless you happen to have a really good crystal ball), so who knows what lies ahead for your children? They’ll choose careers – and probably change their career path more than once – you can’t make them follow the career of your choice, but you can ensure they’re prepared for whatever life throws at them. Even today it’s frightening to discover that old-fashioned male/female divide still exists. The Association of Graduate Recruiters last survey revealed that although 54% of students are female, they only account for 47% of graduate scheme applications. This doesn’t mean women are less capable – in fact although only 17% of IT students are female, 27% of the places on graduate schemes are won by women. Similar results show up in another so-called male profession – engineering. This means that women are more successful than men when it comes down to it, so why aren’t they applying? The answer is ‘confidence’. Research carried out by Girlguiding shows that girls felt lower self-esteem and confidence as they go through school. Less than 35% of the 17-21 year old girls who were surveyed thought they could compete with their male counterparts on an equal footing. As the same question to 9-10 year olds was much more positive with 90% feeling they were just as good as boys, that’s worrying. It seems that the nearer they get to the world of work, the less confidence they have in their own abilities. Given that employers find women do really well, what is eroding their inbuilt self-belief?

How can parents help?

It’s easy to fall into the stereotypes and give girls dolls and boys cars – and our own social programming is hard to break away from, but ensure your daughters get the same kind of encouragement and feedback as their brothers.
  • Don’t differentiate between tasks that are ‘suitable’ for girls or boys.
  • Encourage both the same, tell them how proud you are of whatever they’ve achieved.
  • Every individual has different aptitudes – find out where your children’s strengths lie and cheer-lead their successes.
  • Where they struggle find ways to help them to get better.  Positive feedback is worth its weight in gold. When your child isn’t doing so well, focus on the outcome they’re aiming for, not on their personal abilities.
You’re in a powerful position – use it wisely and programme your children to succeed.