Teaching Girls to Be Brave


Reshma Saujani, in her powerful and inspiring TED Talk, entitled, “teach girls bravery, not perfection” (Vancouver, March 7, 2016) talks about her own choice to be brave as she decided to make a difference by running for congress. She lost miserably and yet she declared that the experience was her first true act of bravery because she didn’t worry about being perfect.

She goes on to explain how she started a company in 2012 called Girls Who Code to teach girls invaluable coding skills and, more importantly, to socialize them to be brave. Boys, unlike girls, when struggling with a code, will blame the code itself. Girls, on the other hand, when struggling with a code, will blame themselves! Boys are taught and rewarded for taking risks. Girls are encouraged to be perfect and play it safe. With coding, however, girls cannot play it safe, nor can they be perfect as coding requires perseverance, trial and error learning, and, yes, failure! To address the “bravery deficit”, Saujani implores girls (and all of us supporting girls) to embrace imperfection!

Speaking of bravery…one of my favourite animated characters is Meredith from the movie Brave. She is wild and free and completely authentic, despite her mother’s best effort to “tame her” and train her to be the future queen. Meredith loathes her training days but she relishes her sacred day off where she is free to do as she pleases and be her true self. Meredith shows true bravery to do what she wants and be exactly who she chooses to be. She is not perfect, but perfectly brave!

So, what will it take to decrease the bravery deficit and increase positive risk-taking. Here are some ideas:

  • Take “small risks” each day – this is great practice
  • Ask questions often and learn continuously
  • Embrace struggle; struggle is the learning
  • Squash fear – there is no time or need for it
  • Persevere and stay determined and focused
  • Seek “magical moments” which only come as the result of trial and error”
  • Dream BIG and do not ever defer your dreams
  • Acknowledge your effort and progress along the way (for motivation)
  • Worry less about outcomes and results (and what other people think)
  • Be authentically and uniquely YOU!

So let go of “perfect” and simply be Brave!