Importance of female participation in employment & entrepreneurship programs
by Hussainatu Blake, Focal Point Global
There have been countless of studies about the importance of youth employment and entrepreneurship programs to educate and provide opportunity to youth in communities that really need it. There has also been studies that shows the importance of girls education and their involvement in such youth employment and entrepreneurship programs. However, how are these programs reaching female youth? How many female youth are participating and has there been an exponential growth in their participation? How have these programs impacted and empowered females and their communities? These are the questions Focal Point Global had to ask when less than 20 percent of youth participating in its Youth Employment & Entrepreneurship Initiative (YEEI) were female.
Focal Point Global's Youth Employment & Entrepreneurship Initiative (YEEI) was a summer initiative that ran from May - September 2016. Twenty-five (25) youth from Chicago, Baltimore, Windhoek, and Johannesburg participated in a month long virtual, cross-cultural workshop that focused on honing employment and entrepreneurial skills. Each week, youth heard from experts in the field, who gave insight about how to get and keep a job, where to look, and how to become an entrepreneur. Youth were later assigned mentors to help them develop business plans for ideas they wanted to launch. Two teams will be participating in the 2016 Namibia Business Plan Competition and several other teams participated in the ALFA Pitch Competition this year.
However, there were other notables:
- Lack of female applicants
- Lack of participation from female YEEI participants
Despite efforts to get females/girls to participate in YEEI, like specifically targeting them through after school programs when recruiting and encouraging girls to speak up during YEEI sessions, there seemed to be a lack of interest from female youth no matter what city, country, and/or culture. There was a last minute push to increase female applicants in all 4 cities. Why weren't girls applying? Are they not interested in the subject matter?
What was learned was that females were not applying because the way YEEI was introduced -- in a traditional manner, one that showed men as leaders/bosses. Traditionally, business and employment have been considered apart of the identity of the male role in society. Females, traditionally, were not concern about these areas and if they were, their voices frequently went unheard or questioned. Even in the execution of the YEEI curriculum, the experts from the field were all male, which further emphasized the stereotype that employment and entrepreneurship are more important to males than females.
We learned it was not just important to encourage female participation when it comes to employment and entrepreneurship programs, but it's also imperative to have female youth see female involvement in the field and in the formation of the programming. They need to know that their wants, interests, concerns, and questions will be considered so that they can become involved. This will lead to growth in female participation and also lead to programs, like YEEI, becoming more effective in communities.