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Educators Must Consciously Attend to Lack of Confidence Among Young Girls, Conference Panel Says

From left: Lisa Hinkelman, founder and CEO, Ruling Our eXperiences, Inc.; LaTonya Goffney, superintendent, Aldine Independent School District; Candace Singh, superintendent, Fallbrook Union ESD; and John Krimmel, superintendent, Airport Community Schools. Photo by Samara Penny.

Confidence is a characteristic that pushes students to take risks, assume leadership and share their ideas and opinions.

Lack of confidence, however, prevents success to the fullest potential, academically and in the professional setting. Unfortunately for young females, this is an issue that is frequent and prominent.

An AASA Thought Leader session speaker on Thursday, Lisa Hinkelman, founder and CEO of the non-profit organization Ruling our eXperience, informed school officials on Thursday about the dangers of low self-esteem and lack of confidence.

Her Columbus, Ohio-based firm conducted a nationwide survey to get insight on the complex world of today’s girls. They surveyed 10,678 girls. The results showed that most girls experienced declining confidence and self-esteem beginning between 5th and 9th grades.

By high school, 46 percent of girls do not believe they are smart enough to get through school and pursue the career of their choice. In addition, one third of girls don’t assume leadership positions for fear of being seen as bossy, and half of the girls surveyed won’t speak their mind in fear of being judged.

This problem, proven with data, is alarming, the presenter stated, because it prevents the girls of today from being the leaders of tomorrow.

After talking to many young women, Hinkelman concluded that most of the lack of confidence stems from the messages being put out to girls on social media, as well as the way society values women based on their appearance and the ratio of men to women in the workplace.

Because many girls are feeling this sense of doubt early on, it then transfers into their adulthood, preventing many of them from excelling in the professional world, said Hinkelman, who founded ROX to help address this confidence issue. Her firms trains counselors and school officials to intentionally instill leadership skills and opportunities into their students.

Panelists included LaTonya Goffney, superintendent of Aldine ISD in Texas, and John Krimmel, superintendent of Airport Community Schools in Michigan. Hinkelman said both have helped their schools’ campus to become more safe and supportive. By taking the data, confronting the challenges and being proactive, both superintendents said they have been able to see dramatic results, academically and in the attitudes of their girls. 

Hinkelman urged school leaders to be intentional with how they lead their students. Understand how low confidence impacts academics and know that by making change, and be proactive you’re investing in the future of women leadership.

(Samara Penny is a reporting intern for Conference Daily Online and a junior at Judson High School in Converse, Texas.)

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