27 September 2017
The inaugural She Leads High Conference is a one-day leadership event for young women, including female identifying and non-binary people, in years 9 and 10. The event will take place at the University of Canberra’s Ann Harding Conference Centre on 28 November 2017.
As the date for She Leads High edges closer and anticipation in the office increases, we have been reflecting on why this event for young women is so important, and why were so excited about it.
The sooner we educate young people about gender equality and respectful relationships, the more likely they are to live fulfilling lives.
She Leads High focuses on the fundamentals of leadership, improving girls’ confidence, creating positive relationships with others, and learning to communicate with power – skills that are often missing from mainstream education.
At YWCA Canberra, we’re determined to provide young women with a basic framework to identify positive relationships, to develop a sense of voice and self, to recognise support networks, and to be fully empowered.
By working to empower young women to recognise and overcome gender inequality, we are also working to reduce gendered violence.
Our Watch has identified that young people are the greatest asset we have in preventing gendered violence. If we can engage younger generations in a conversation about respectful relationships, gender stereotypes, and gender equality, we can transform our society for future generations.
By empowering young women at She Leads High to recognise how gender inequality affects them, we are supporting them to make informed choices, overcome challenges, and break down the barriers that many of them will face as they approach young adulthood.
A recent study from New Zealand found that while 92 per cent of girls believed anyone could be a leader, only 21 per cent felt they had the skills to be a good leader. Further, young women tended to hold ‘traditional’ views on leadership.
The research also found that young women equate leadership with formal leadership positions, personal benefits, and having power. It was concluded that the reason young women can identify what a leader is, but cannot identify as one themselves, is due to two serious issues.
The first is that ideas of leadership are gendered and favour men. Take for example the ASX 200, where only 11 CEOs are women, and 41 have no female executive leaders at all. The second issue is that leadership is viewed in ‘traditional’ terms, that is, individuals who hold high business positions.
She Leads High will demonstrate that anyone can be a leader, and that leadership can take many forms. By coming to this realisation early, young women are more likely to view themselves as leaders and take up leadership opportunities.
A NSW Parliamentary Inquiry found that the most significant requirements for young people are not being met, and many young people are not prepared for adulthood and are experiencing low social and emotional wellbeing.
These requirements include developing high self-esteem, feeling supported and a sense of belonging, being provided with an increasing level of independence in a safe environment, and having their achievements recognised, and their opinions valued.
When these key requirements aren’t being met, young people are more likely to suffer mental health issues, engage in destructive or dangerous behaviour, place significant stress on their families and communities, and may never develop the confidence and crucial social skills to succeed later in life.
She Leads High will unpack the fundamentals of leadership, and explore social and emotional development, peer relationships and pressures, self-esteem, body image, effective communication skills, and confidence building.
Of course, the reason we’re most excited about the day is because we have put together a super fun program that is going to keep attendees engaged and inspired.
Our MC, Laura Campbell, will keep the energy levels high throughout the day, as she shares her wisdom as a passionate disability advocate, comedian, actor and performer, and body positivist.
We’re also really excited to hear from three incredible keynote speakers; Nipuni Wijewickrema, Francesca Maclean, and Izzy Mudford. These women have incredibly diverse, yet equally interesting backgrounds, and will discuss topics around entrepreneurship, STEAM, disability and mental health awareness, engineering, and consciousness for the ACT LGBTQIA+ community.
We are also joined by seven speed networkers who will share their life experiences and future aspirations with attendees, and two hands-on workshops with skilled young women facilitators. The aim is to not only inspire young women of what possibilities await them, but to provide them with some practical advice and tangible skills to help them progress their dreams.