Strategies for nurturing ambition in female students

Nurturing ambition in female students is crucial for their personal and professional growth. By highlighting diverse role models from various fields and empowering our students to strive for more, we can set them up for success

Geetha Maiya's avatar
14 Mar 2024
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Empowering female students is essential for building an equitable future
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Women are making significant strides in fields such as academia, literature, music, film and increasingly in science, technology and healthcare. There’s virtually no realm where women are not making their mark.

However, we often observe the following situations, underscoring the need to intensify our endeavours in expanding opportunities for women and nurturing their ambitions.

  • Women often surpass their male counterparts in academic contexts, but they commonly undervalue their capabilities
  • Women shy away from taking a prominent, intentional role in their narratives, frequently redirecting credit to others and avoiding acknowledgement
  • When a woman showcases her ambition, she might be perceived as deviating from societal expectations
  • Society often praises women who sacrifice their ambitions.

Cultivating ambition in female students involves creating an empowering atmosphere that nurtures confidence and self-belief. In higher education institutions, the first step in nurturing women involves emphasising the importance of embracing ambition. It should not be perceived as negative or taboo, but as a conduit for realising aspirations and shaping a brighter future. We must all take steps to nurture a supportive environment and provide opportunities for growth and development. An important part of this is ensuring our institutions are inclusive and encourage female students to feel supported when expressing their opinions and pursuing their aspirations, both within the classroom and in extracurricular activities. Some strategies include:

Provide mentors: establish mentorship initiatives that link female students with accomplished experts in their respective areas. These programmes should allow students to receive insight and guidance in a safe and private environment and enrich their academic journeys. Wherever possible, expose the students to accomplished role models from different fields to broaden their horizons.

Close gender gaps: promote the active involvement of female students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics programmes. Run awareness campaigns regarding stereotypes and guide female students to recognise and overcome biases that could influence their performance and choices. Such programmes can take the form of workshops, seminars and diversity training to raise awareness about stereotypes’ influence on decision-making, or community outreach events such as panel discussions and film screenings to engage a broader community in important conversations.

Expose students to a diverse array of career options and skills: create opportunities for them to improve their public speaking, critical thinking and problem-solving skills and champion project-based learning.

Nurture future leaders: introduce leadership development programmes designed specifically for female students that involve tailoring curricula for self-awareness, goal-setting and skills enhancement, offering mentorship and networking for career growth. Promote leadership opportunities and encourage female students to take on leadership roles in classes, clubs, sports teams and college events.

Get buy-in from others: engage parents, classmates and guardians in female students’ educational journeys by communicating frequently with them and arranging informative workshops for them. You can also introduce teacher guardian schemes where teachers are assigned to groups of students, and they monitor academic and extracurricular activities to report back to teachers.

Success mainly depends on motivation, which is driven by setting goals, exerting effort and overcoming obstacles. Without motivation, staying focused and committed to our aspirations can be a daunting task. It is therefore important to encourage our female students to set goals throughout their academic careers, and keep setting goals to nurture their self-development. Gradually, they can work their way up to particularly ambitious objectives.

Nurturing ambition in female students is a fundamental investment in building a more equitable and dynamic society. We must inspire students to assert themselves, pose questions and proactively seek the support they need to achieve their goals. As we inspire and uplift female students, we lay the foundation for a future where their potential is recognised and celebrated without limitations, ultimately leading to a more inclusive and thriving global community.

Geetha Maiya is the director of student affairs at Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal, India.

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