What I want to be when I grow up

Last week my son participated in a program that I wish was around when I was at school. Lemonade Stand is a business school set up for 11 and 12-year-old children. Over the two days the children learned business concepts such as revenue, cost of goods and profit, they created business ideas, analysed the problems they were solving, their competitive market and their pricing model.

On the last day they had to "pitch" their ideas to a really tough audience - their parents.  The children were excited, challenged and proud. I am also really proud to say that my child's team was the only one who said they would get funding from investors (and not their family and allowance) and that they would use the money to hire staff (recruitment runs in our blood).

What was disappointing was the attendance. Of the 12 attendees there were only 2 girls. A ratio of 1 to 5. This is a statistic that we are used to, but my hope was that times were changing. These numbers don't give me hope that things are changing quickly enough.

I recently read an article which further supported what I observed at Lemonade Stand.  Adecco conducted an Asia-Pacific survey to see what children wanted to be when they grow up.

In Japan, they polled 500 boys and 500 girls aged between 6 to 15 years old.  The top response for boys was that they wanted to be a businessman (10.2%), followed closely by professional football athlete (10%) and civil servant was the response for 6.6%.

For girls, the top response was confectioner/patisserie worker (11%) followed by teacher (6.4%) and businesswoman (5.8%).

The article indicated that girls are half as likely to want to pursue a role in business versus their male counterparts.

My question is, what are we as parents, as teachers, as role models and as the community doing to support and encourage girls in their careers and life goals?   Are we limiting them in their thinking? I will leave this to you as it is not an easy question to answer.

For me, the best business concept and presentation was from one of the girls.  I spoke to my son about it on the way home and he agreed.  "Mum, she is smart and has really good ideas,” he said.    

How many times do you hear this in the workplace about your female colleagues?