By Christie Garton, founder of UChic and the 1,000 Dreams Fund
Knowledge is power. And today, young women need as much knowledge as possible to move forward in a world that is just now engaging in an honest discussion about gender equality.
While there are numerous studies looking at the demographics of women currently in high school and college, highlighting their numbers, earnings potential after graduation and what their values are, there is very little information about the real challenges these young women are facing today.
This is unfortunate. Young women have incredibly awe-inspiring dreams for the future, and why shouldn’t they? They are the most educated generation to date, and yet they are facing numerous hurdles and potential setbacks to their future success. For example, The New York Times recently shared that college students who borrow money to attend school will end up with an average of $30,000 in student loan debt. Beyond that, today’s female graduates take on slightly more debt than their male counterparts and with 20 percent of student loans currently in default, this does not bode well for them.
The good news is that many of these hurdles are fixable. Now is the time to shed light on these challenges in order to find effective solutions that can benefit all women striving for their dreams.
That is why my company UChic, which seeks to empower our young female consumers with scholarship funding and life-changing advice and support through our 1,000 Dreams Fund, has set out to do just that with the State of the Girl – a new content series we are introducing today.
Over the last year, we have been collecting data via surveys, expert interviews and first-hand accounts from young women across the country, aiming to uncover what exactly is going on. Thanks to these efforts, we’ve identified some key insights into the biggest challenges they face at what is arguably one of the most critical life stages, and have learned more about who they are and what they need to succeed in today’s competitive world.
What better place to start the State of the Girl series than exploring some of their most critical needs? According to a study we conducted last year in partnership with SurveyMonkey with more than 300 high school and college-aged women nationwide, the one thing we know for sure: lack of equal access to funding and resources, such as mentors and internship programs, is a huge hindrance to young women’s advancement.
Unequivocally, young women understand how critically important extracurricular activities like studying abroad, funding support for research and internships are to their future career. As you can see in the following graph, 56 percent of young women say they are very important.
So while these women believe that extracurricular activities are essential to their future success, the majority have had to turn down an opportunity because they could not afford to do it. In the following graph, more than 55 percent of young women say they have wanted to participate in an extracurricular activity or take an unpaid/low-paying internship but could not afford to do so.
What about funding these activities? Our survey found that the majority of young women lack easy access to funding. In fact, close to 50 percent say it’s challenging to find funding for these opportunities, and an eye-opening 30 percent of respondents said they don’t even know where to start looking for support.
And this is no surprise when you consider that of the total amount of charitable giving, which would be a source of potential funding, only 7% goes to non-profits that would support these women, leaving an incredible funding gap AND need.
How we can help
Young women are dedicated to doing everything they can to make their dreams come true, starting first by acquiring that critical knowledge. Unfortunately, they are failing to launch because many of them simply need better access to opportunities – whether that be financial, emotional or just access to information. Without it, they are in danger of losing or falling short on their goals.
So how can we help? Over the next few months, I’ll be sharing insights from several surveys we have commissioned over the past year, along with secondary research, to help shed light on the state of the girl. Alongside the data, you’ll hear from real girls about their own experiences with the challenges they face in going for their dreams. We’ll talk about who these women are and what they need today in order to better reach their dreams tomorrow.
As Gracie Schram, UChic’s 17 year-old brand ambassador, so poignantly shares in her inspirational song We are the Change: “We can’t do everything, but what if we all did something….something good.”
With our State of the Girl series we are aiming to do just that – do something good. It is my sincere hope that not only does this series inspire conversation around the challenges young women are facing, but eventually drive real, actionable solutions, giving support and encouragement to these next generation of leaders and world-changers.