New research shows Black girls outperform their peers yet lack opportunities to lead

Ruling Our eXperiences, Inc. (ROX) released its latest national research report, Girls, Diversity and The Future, which reflects insights from 10,678 5th through 12th grade girls. This study by the leading national experts on programming and research for girls offers a glimpse into the world of today’s girls and their unique beliefs, behaviors and barriers across demographics.

Research findings include:

  • Despite embodying key traits of leadership, Black girls face a world that does not embrace their leadership in school, government or corporate America. Nationally, Black women make up just 4% of school superintendents, 8% of our country’s elected officials and there are no Black female CEOs among Fortune 500 companies. This research indicates that when compared to their peers, Black girls are the most equipped and eager to lead. They confidently embrace being in charge and are not afraid to express their opinions, yet they face barriers to leadership roles.
  • Black girls have higher rates of confidence and belief in their academic abilities compared to their peers, yet are the most likely to experience harsher school discipline. Black girls experience an increase in confidence from elementary school to middle school, while all other groups of girls experience a sharp decline. Similarly, Black girls are more likely to believe they are smart enough for their dream job compared to their same-age peers, and 81% report that their teachers treat them like they are smart. Despite all of this, Black girls are more likely to have negative discipline-related experiences in school.
  • When girls of color are in the majority, they are more likely to believe they are smart and capable than if they are one of few people of color in a situation. While race does not exclusively predict the way girls feel about their academic abilities and opportunities, attending school and learning with others who are like them contributes to a sense of efficacy and ability. When girls of color are not learning alongside other girls of color, they feel less confident in their abilities and opportunities.

“Our data reinforces that we live in a society that does not always openly embrace girls and women who share their opinions, as this can often be viewed as aggressive. Sadly, this reality is amplified for Black girls,” said Dr. Sibyl West, co-author of the study, co-director of the Frederick Douglass Institute for Intercultural Research and associate professor of counselor education at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. “When a Black girl speaks her mind, she can be labeled as hostile, disagreeable or rude. Her opinions and ideas can be dismissed or ignored more often than her peers. This data is showing us that Black girls are ready to lead and possess key traits and characteristics of leadership, but face a world that doesn’t embrace their leadership.”

Dr. Lisa Hinkelman, founder/CEO of Ruling Our eXperiences (ROX) and co-author of this study said, “We have a responsibility to seize this critical moment in history. In Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, little girls everywhere finally have the chance to see a woman of color in the White House. Now it’s time for each of us to identify what we should be doing individually, programmatically and systemically to address the disparities surrounding leadership opportunities for girls of color.”