What Advice Would You Give to 11th Grade Girls?

May 19, 2019 | Professional Advice, Your Path


Research shows that in grades K-12, female students’ achievement in mathematics and science is on par with their male peers. Also, female students participate in high level mathematics and science courses at similar rates as their male peers, with the exception of computer science and engineering. Yet somehow but the time women get to the job market in their twenties, and then into leadership positions in their thirties and beyond, their participation in roles that involve mathematics and science plummets.  In the investment industry, in every category from real estate to private equity, the percentage of female investment professionals is less than 10% of the total professionals. 

What’s happening the pipeline of women interested in pursuing these important career paths?

Last winter on vacation in Hawaii, I met a teacher at a local high school who taught a class of 11th graders on the topic of Entrepreneurship.  The class is a mix of female and male students, with equal enthusiasm and talent for the subject. However, she started to observe some of the young women holding back.  The teacher was determined help the 17-year old’s develop the skills needed to survive in a cutthroat business world, and overcome self-doubt.  She told me about some of the exercises she prepares for her class to help them develop the important skills needed to be a business leader.  

For example, one assignment was called What if They Say No.  The students are tasked with finding an opportunity to ask for something, with the strong possibility that they will hear the answer no. One student asked to be the announcer at the local baseball game.  One student asked a random surfer on the beach for a turn with their board.  One student went down to the fish market asking for a job for the day — and that unfortunate student was actually granted his ask.

It’s a clever exercise for one of the most important lesson all business professionals and especially entrepreneurs eventually learn: Rejection. Handling rejection without an emotional reaction is key.  We hear a lot more “No” than “Yes”.

When the she found out what I did for a living – organizing events for women investors – the teacher asked me what advice I have for the girls in her class.  So, we put this question out to our audience of women investors and business executives in the renewable energy and power generation industry at our recent event in April. 

What Advice Would You Give a Class of 11th Grade Girls?

Here are our top 10 responses:

#1 Don’t follow the rules.
#2 Build each other up.
#3 Go outside your comfort zone.
#4 Have thick skin.
#5 Be financially independent.
#6 Math is cool.
#7 Don’t freak out.
#8 Take a public speaking course.
#9 Study Hard. (But Don’t Study Too Hard)
#10 Speak up. Your voice matters.

I plan to share results with the teacher I met in Hawaii. Please join us in this dialogue.  Together, let’s strengthen the pipeline of young women in mathematics and science-based industries. In high school, young women have enthusiasm about math and science, so it’s up to us adults to think about we what can we do to help them follow through and pursue careers in these industries.