Think of a young girl, full of ambition. She wants to be a strong, independent woman who carves out her path and grows into her potential. She quickly finds out, though, that these objectives are becoming less achievable due to various hurdles that are socially imposed.

Rather than a lack of ability, her gender is the cause of these challenges.

All around the world, there is a wide variety of careers that are desired by girls from a very young age. They dream of being in positions like presidents, astronauts, scientists, diplomats, businesswomen, and the list goes on. However, there lies a shadow behind all these aspirations that limits their future career opportunities and that is the ‘Dream Gap’.

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It is a difference that emerges from a young age that stifles girls’ self-confidence further inured by the harsh reality of gender discrimination and patriarchal norms that continue to pervade societies worldwide.

Research shows that as early as 5 years old, many girls begin to develop self-limiting beliefs, doubting their abilities and seeing their gender as an obstacle rather than an opportunity. They begin to think they’re not as smart and capable as boys.

According to a 2017 report conducted by NYU researchers, girls often stop believing they can do or be anything as early as six years old. Betty Friedan in her ‘The Feminine Mystique’, talked about the systemic sexism that is ingrained in our society. Since childhood, leadership roles have been associated with males, and females are confined to reproductive roles.

Similarly, Nancy Chodrow in ‘The Reproduction of Mothering’ expanded our understanding of how gender is co-constructed and re-created by both the mother-child relationship and wider societal norms and values. She successfully argued against biological explanations of gender norms and roles - the beliefs that surround ‘femininity’ and ‘masculinity’ and the positions in society they are ascribed to.

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There is a long-ingrained misconception about the ability to do anything based on their gender which needs to be addressed.

The impact of these barriers extends far beyond the individual level, affecting communities and societies as a whole.

When girls are denied the opportunity to fulfill their potential, the world loses out on their creativity, innovation, and talent.

It took the United Kingdom 191 years to finally appoint the first female Head of Mission, and in 2010, women filled only 21.8% of senior management positions from 260 diplomatic missions. A male-dominated representation of diplomacy is no longer viable within an interconnected world where women matter.

Research shows that increasing women’s participation in the workforce can boost economic growth as they are regarded as economic powerhouses. This can also help to improve social outcomes, from health and education to peace and security.

A report from the McKinsey Global Institute, published in September 2015, concluded that if female participation level in the global job market was equal to that of men by 2025, global GDP could increase by as much as $12 trillion annually.

This impact is roughly equivalent to the size of the 2015 U.S. and Chinese economies combined. To solve this disparity, the report emphasises fundamental changes that projects such as Barbie Dream are helping to make possible.

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The Barbie Dream Gap Project is a global mission, established in 2019, that works to close the dream gap.

It challenges the gender stereotypes and gender biases that hold girls back from reaching their full potential. This project has successfully supported girls by raising more than $2 million to realise their full potential. They highlight the importance of reforming attitudes towards gender in paid work, advocate for capability building to ensure that girls and women receive education and training for high-productivity jobs and leadership roles, and promote female role models and grassroots workshops.

There is a need to ponder upon questions like why there exists such a high level of hypocrisy in society when it comes to pursuing one’s dreams. A guy can choose any field he wants but a girl cannot? Why do women have to compromise on their ambitions for the sake of societal acceptance? Why are women confined to being a doctor and teachers only whereas being a diplomat is controversial?

Therefore, one must address the concern related to tackling this challenge and opening doors for girls to realize their full potential. The answer lies in education, empowerment, and opportunity.

Parents, families, and the communities we build around our children have a responsibility to protect our girls from feeling limited. Every girl must know that she can do whatever fills her heart and mind with joy with no question as to their ability, especially based on their gender.

The journey towards gender equality has a long way to go. However, with the right upbringing of girls and allowing them to choose their own career paths, we can bridge the dream gap.

Girls need to see brilliant women as their role models and see how they got here where they are! This will enable every woman in the world to become independent and develop self-confidence. Bringing women into diverse kinds of industries is a symbol of hope and modernisation for the 21st century.

The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners

Faiza Ihsan

The writer is a student of international relations with special focus on gender development and youth mobilisation


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KU May 28, 2024 02:16pm
Children suffer their parents, n their mindset. Later they suffer Jurassic education system, n injustice/rule of law in daily lives, finally by organization/colleagues. Opportunity cost for country!
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Javaid Bhai May 29, 2024 06:30pm
When supply outsources demand the value of the product falls. HR in US is an unfortunate example. Both parents work and are yet unable to make living wage.
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