Why Girls’ Leadership Programs Are Essential

By Maureen Leming

Even in today’s world, where more women than ever are entering the workforce, women remain underrepresented in senior leadership roles across industries. At The Hun School of Princeton, we believe that girls must be given authentic opportunities to act as leaders to grow as leaders. School is ideal for preparing today’s girls to be tomorrow’s leaders. Both inside and outside the classroom is where we need to show that they, too, can grow up to lead and shape the world they live in.

4 Reasons Why Leadership Programs Are Important

While there are countless reasons why leadership programs are beneficial to students, we’ve chosen four that we believe are of utmost importance.

1. Encourage professional and personal growth

The role of school in gender equality and women empowerment is extremely important. Adolescence is when students begin to explore who they are and what kind of person they want to become. Leadership programs not only empower students but also support their growth, build character, and prepare them for the future. When girls are offered leadership experiences during their school years, they’re more likely to feel confident to take the lead as they age.

2. Teach girls to exercise the power of their voice

Students who are taught leadership skills in schools gain the confidence and skills needed to seek leadership roles in their school communities and beyond. They might go on to create their own leadership lessons to teach younger students, to help build their confidence. Eventually, these students will go on to college and into the workforce with the confidence to speak up, stand out, and support others in their chosen fields.

3. Let girls be mentored by role models

A child’s early experiences shape what they imagine possible for people like themselves. When children see themselves represented in positive ways in the world around them, they are more likely to grow into healthy, capable, and contributing adults. When encouraged to participate in leadership programs, they are given opportunities for mentorship by the very people who they’ve looked up to since childhood, they are surrounded by like-minded peers who have similar goals and dreams, and they are guided by role models who believe in their abilities and potential.

4. Help girls grow and strengthen their network

Having a vibrant network is key to any leader's success. Leadership programs are designed for students to share lived experiences and gain different perspectives. These programs also help students strengthen their network with their peers and profound faculty members. These relationships are even more valuable as students mature into adults and move into the professional world.

"No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contribution of half of its citizens. "

Michelle Obama Former First Lady of the United States

3 Reasons Why Girls’ Empowerment Programs Matter

Now that we have established why leadership programs are essential to students, we want to dive deeper into the importance of leadership activities for girls.

1. Boys are more likely to take on leadership roles

Research on girls and leadership is clear: Girls and women are less likely to hold leadership positions. A study conducted by the GSRI showed that girls are twice as likely as boys to avoid leadership roles for fear they'll be labeled "bossy," while a Harvard study revealed ongoing aversion to female leadership—even by girls and women themselves. 

2. The percentage of women in management is still small

This brings us to our next point, the percentage of women in management is still small when compared to the male gender. For example, as of March 2022, there were 74 female CEOs employed at America's 500 highest-grossing companies, up from 41 in June of 2021 and 7 in 2002. Although this year is seeing a new record of female CEOs, the new record still only translates to around 15% female representation at the top of Fortune 500 companies. 

3. Business performances improve with gender-equal management

Undoubtedly, this lack of women in top management positions is an unfortunate waste of expertise and potential. Inspiring young women to venture into leadership positions is important for our communities and economic prosperity. The financial performance of firms improves with more gender-equal corporate boards. When women are included and listened to, all genders will benefit from perspectives and approaches that come from different life experiences.

How To Teach Girls Leadership in Schools

Teaching girls how to be leaders is a multi-pronged approach. Teachers should start by creating a space to intentionally support female students. Girls might be hesitant to speak up in spaces or classes that are male-dominated, so creating a space where they feel empowered and comfortable speaking up is essential. Teachers might directly ask a female student for her opinion about a topic, or ask a female student to begin a class discussion.

Then, break down gender norms and expectations. Have the girls talk about messages they receive growing up about what makes a “good girl,” things like being quiet, and not speaking out of turn. Compare those traits to what they understand makes a “good leader,” things like being confident, speaking loudly and often, etc., and students find that those traits are not what make up the traditional “good girl.”

Then, give girls plenty of opportunities to engage with female leaders in traditionally male-dominated fields, to get an inside look into what it has taken to break into those fields. Students should ask for specific advice or steps they’ve taken to accomplish their goals.

The Girls Leadership Program at Hun

Student leadership programs are an integral component of The Hun School of Princeton. Our goal is to empower and educate our students and increase the development of leadership skills for girls and boys.

The following leadership opportunities are designed specifically for our female students:

  • Girls’ Leadership Cohort
  • Gender Equity Matters Club (GEM), and Conference
  • Girls Who Code Program
  • Female Athletic Network

These programs create an intentionally supportive environment for our female students, who might previously have been hesitant to run for leadership positions on campus. Our faculty and student mentors help these girls gain the skills and confidence to apply for leadership roles across campus and connect them with alumni in male-dominated fields who talk about their experiences and offer specific advice about how they accomplished their goals.

At Hun, we’ve found that the girls who participate in these programs are more likely to become campus leaders, and they go on to mentor younger female students or host leadership programs for students at other schools.

"Women have a special contribution to make to help bring order out of chaos because they have special qualities of leadership which are greatly needed today. "

Shirley Chisholm Former Congresswomen (D-NY 12th District)

50th Anniversary of Girls and Women at Hun

In 1971, The Hun School of Princeton first began admitting girls. That year, only 1 in 10 students was female. These trailblazers forged the path for girls at Hun today, who find an abundance of programs designed specifically for them; from leadership programs and conferences to athletics and clubs, there are plenty of affinity groups in which to participate. In 2021, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of girls and women at Hun with a full roster of events and programming aimed to further enhance the girls’ experience at Hun while honoring the paths of those who came before us.

Further Together at Hun - Apply Now!

The Hun School of Princeton is a private, coeducational secondary boarding school located in Princeton in Mercer County, New Jersey. Founded in 1914, we are a day and boarding school that provides a structured and challenging education from grades 6-12 and postgraduate. We focus on student excellence and achievement and understand that kind encouragement is as necessary as an intellectual challenge. You want the best for your child. So do we. Visit the Admissions page for more information on how to apply. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at (609) 921-7600 or admission@hunschool.org.