Globally, girls perform academically at par with boys and often even out-perform them in school. But when it comes to leadership during their careers women fall behind. This phenomenon is manifested consistently in many parts of the world, and especially in Africa where he C-suites are often devoid of female leaders. In fact, a study by Accenture in 2010 suggested that women are more resilient at work. Why then are women absent from or under-represented in leadership positions at executive level? Why do women choose to serve more on voluntary boards, at church and in civic spheres, leaving business and government leadership to be dominated by men?
Interestingly, the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that women disadvantage themselves and that the many of the limitations to leadership are as much internal as they are external. While some circumstances impede women from professional success (such a s a phenomenon dubbed PhD – Pull her Down), we have also learned that there are things that can be done with women – with girls- at a young age to help them prepare for the challenges and opportunities that leadership at the highest levels present.
In Nigeria, JA implements a girl’s empowerment camp called LEAD (Leadership, Empowerment, Achievement and Development). The purpose of the LEAD program is to develop and empower girls to become leaders and achievers. Girls are engaged in a series of activities which allow them to explore their skills and interests over a period of a week. These activities include leadership workshops, discussions with leading women from the private and public sector, group projects that emphasize the achievement of goals and thought-provoking discussions on issues such as sex education and HIV/AIDS, choosing the right university and the right career path, and life as a young woman in Nigeria.
A similar Camp for Girls takes place in Uganda. This residential program brings girls together to envision their futures and learn from professional women what it takes to succeed and achieve as women in the workplace.
JA Nigeria also runs a Girls in Enterprise Program (GEP) which launched in 2014 and builds on the LEAD program with sponsorship from Mastercard. Through the program senior secondary level, girls are recruited and trained on different aspects of setting up and running a business, including writing business plans, selling shares to raise capital, electing officers, managing a business and financial records as well as returning profits to shareholders as dividends.
In Zimbabwe, a bold Job Shadow program called “Take 10,000 Girls to Work’ pairs school-aged girls with professionals in their fields of interest for a day long experience that exposes them to the careers they aspire to and helps them appreciate what it takes to be suitable for and succeed in that field.
Lastly JA, started a Digigirlz ICT Initiative in partnership with Microsoft in 2013, where female staff from Microsoft encourage and guide young female students to consider careers in Information Communication Technology (ICT) and other technology professions.