When discussing gender equity, we often talk about things like the wage gap and double standards. What if, however, so many of these inequalities actually stem from the confidence gap?

From a young age, women are conditioned to be insecure. During the prime development years, the amount of confidence that a girl has in herself, her body, and her accomplishments plummets. The obsession with peer opinions dictate what teens wear, how they act, and ultimately who they are. In middle school, the average girl is much less confident than the average boy, and this trend can continue even into adulthood. In the workplace, women are more likely to downplay their successes and performances, and to not ask for raises.

Elizabeth Reed

I continually reflect on my transition to middle school and am aware of my transformation. I changed from a girl who could talk to anyone, who had made friends almost immediately at the biggest middle school in the state, to the quiet girl who always got paired with the troublemaker boys in order to “civilize” them. My low self-esteem manifested in mental health issues, because if I didn’t love myself it was impossible to enjoy life. I thought that shift had just been a part of getting older, and that I had become an introvert in the extrovert-ruled world. For me to learn that this was an issue that happened across the board with women was shocking, but also somewhat of a relief. It wasn’t just my fault. I wasn’t just shy or a loser who couldn’t stand up for myself. I learned that young girls were conditioned to feel the pressure of other people’s expectations and judgements on us at all times.

But if it is a societal issue, how do we fix it?

LiveGirl, a nonprofit girls leadership organization founded in 2014, is working to solve the confidence gap through actively building brave, inclusive leaders and closing the female leadership gap. Through internship, mentoring, and afterschool programs, as well as summer camps, LiveGirl focuses on cultivating social-emotional intelligence and self-esteem in those who need it most. They surround girls with positivity and inspiration, providing a diverse community where girls can learn the skills necessary to navigate the teen years and beyond. Through LiveGirl, I learned to set aside perfectionism and take risks. I learned that I do not need to be an extrovert to be an impactful leader. 

Being surrounded by women who do not judge but instead seek to uplift each other was incredibly healing and inspiring. I was able to find my voice for public speaking and pursue my passions. I was able to create positive social change at my school that will continue to impact young girls long after I am gone. But most importantly, I was able to gain the confidence to know that I am smart, I am strong, and I am special. I know that LiveGirl will continue to help other young women transform their lives as it did mine, and I’m incredibly grateful that I have access to this network of powerful, supportive women.

Elizabeth Reed is a marketing and engagement intern at LiveGirl in New Canaan.