Girls of color make up more than 50% of the population of girls in the United States. However, resources and organizations focused on providing resources and education to this demographic are scarce. That’s why Girls Leadership has put all its efforts into demonstrating with data the impact of fostering leadership skills from an early age.
“Leadership is often explored through a scarcity model, of who doesn’t have enough of it or who doesn’t have the capacity for it,” reads Girls Leadership 2022 report, “Ready to Lead.” “For girls of color, this routinely manifests in the failure to recognize their potential to lead. Instead of honoring the qualities and values that make their collective ability to navigate complex systems and communities accessible to so many, Black and Latinx girls often experience ‘leadership’ as an exercise of privilege.”
There are 25 million girls in grades K-12 in the U.S. Combining the efforts of all the national organizations serving girls, they collectively reach only about 3 million, or 12% of the nation’s girls, leaving a staggering 22 million girls in the U.S. unsupported. Girls Leadership’s goal is to close that gap.
The organization conducted groundbreaking new research on the personal, social, and structural factors that profoundly impact the identity, aspiration, and leadership skill development of Black and Latina girls.
Its “Ready to Lead” report involved 2,012 girls; it interviewed the girls’ parents and 601 teachers to learn what support systems girls of color identify for their leadership development and what barriers to leadership, both internal and external, exist for girls of color.
Black and Latina girls ready to lead
The study revealed that Black and Latina girls identify as leaders and have leadership aspirations. Black girls are more likely to identify as leaders (48%) than girls of other races (White 31%, Latina 36%, Asian 25%, multi-ethnic 33%). Overall, girls of color were more likely to report seeking leadership opportunities compared to White girls. Black and Latina girls identified several different factors contributing to their interest in leadership and leadership. Black and Latina girls were more likely than girls of other races to view leadership skills as critical to achieving their life goals.
However, the obstacles are many.
“Ready to Lead” found that racial and gender bias are significant 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 aspirations and opportunities,” the report reads. “Over 1 in 3 Black and Latinx girls who score highly on the leadership scale have reported witnessing racial bias, with nearly 1 in 2 Black girls saying they have experienced unfair treatment because of their race from teachers and administrators.”
Similarly, the report found that Black and Latina girls are more likely to score high on the leadership scale, especially if their schools have more teachers of color.
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