We need to hear bold, loud and assertive women,’ former Obama White House adviser tells GDST audience

The GDST Talks series continued with Dr Marisa Porges talking about her book, What Girls Need: How to Raise Bold, Courageous, and Resilient Women

gdst talks

We were proud to welcome Dr Marisa Porges to give the second GDST Talks presentation in the series. Dr Porges, author of What Girls Need: How to Raise Bold, Courageous, and Resilient Women, has previously been a naval flight officer in the US Navy, senior policy advisor on counterterrorism and national security in the Obama White House, and is now Headteacher at Baldwin, an all-girls’ school in Philadelphia.

We have to empower girls to show their empathy and humour when being assertive, so they can be heard and well-received.”

Dr Porges’ outlined the characteristics of female heads of state whose leadership styles have led to the successful management of the pandemic in their countries in recent months; women such as Jacinda Ardern and Sanna Marin have become known for collaborative problem-solving skills characterised by building consensus, finding compromise and empathetic thinking. Whilst exposure to gender stereotypes may ‘socialise’ girls into taking on more caring and nurturing behaviours, Dr Porges explained, these are also critical skills for life and work. With more and more businesses insisting on their employees undertaking empathy training to improve customer service, for example, girls whose parents are encouraging them to problem-solve in ways that help to maintain and manage relationships, will be well-placed.

“Research shows that girls demonstrate better empathy and collaboration in problem-solving, but these skills must be consciously nurtured”

The presentation was followed by a discussion hosted by Alison Sefton, Head of Norwich High School, addressing questions around the ‘nature-nurture’ debate, navigating female friendship issues, and the perceived nuances between being aggressive and assertive: that women are often seen as being the former, whilst men are the latter. ‘The system needs to change,’ says Dr Porges, ‘and we need to get the system used to hearing bold, loud and assertive women. However, we also need to be pragmatic. We have to empower girls to overcome the existing blockers by showing their empathy and humour when being assertive, so they can be heard and well-received.’

Dr Porges’ top three tips to parents for raising bold, resilience and courageous women: 

  1. Give your daughters plenty of opportunities to practise honing the skills of problem-solving, collaboration, developing adaptability, asking for what they need and being persuasive. This can be through organising playdates or asking for more pocket money!
  2. Build in conscious nurturing of these skills every day on a small scale rather than through big gestures.
  3. Remember that as a parent, you are your child’s number one role model; what they see in you will reinforce how they think and behave, so use this position to show different ways of problem-solving, open communication, and empathetic thinking.

For a limited time you can watch  a recording of Dr Porges’ talk: (below)