I wrote an article for Youthwork Magazine last month about some of the ways in which we can help young women develop in leadership. One of the things I said was that in many ways this is all about developing leaders, full stop. When it comes to female leadership, there’s an interesting paradox at work. On the one hand it can actually be unhelpful to think of female leaders as existing in a different category to male leaders. As far as possible, I think that young women and men need to learn about leadership alongside each other so that they learn to relate to each other well and respect each other’s contribution. On the other hand, there can be times when it’s appropriate to provide coaching or leadership training just for girls to address specific issues that might get overlooked in a mixed setting.
I asked Hannah Fytche, a sixth form student, to write about her experience of developing leadership skills to go alongside the article, Unfortunately there wasn’t room for it in the magazine so here is her story. Hannah first thought of herself as a leader at a girls only event but then went on a mixed leadership course. If she hadn’t had the first experience, she might not have had the second.
“I am a leader.” This phrase has never really crossed my mind; rather, I have thought about myself as someone trying to make the best decisions possible to ensure the best outcomes for each situation. Because of this, there is perhaps no moment in which I realised that I had leadership potential; however, when I was thirteen, a young women’s leadership weekend called “The Christian Apprentice” began to unfold the idea of leadership in my mind.
I now see this as the beginning of a journey, and since then I have continued developing as a person and leader. A huge part of this was the FRESH leadership course, run by SJI. This consisted of three weekends throughout which my perceptions of God, leadership and worship were totally transformed. I found new confidence in trusting God, and I learnt that leadership is not just about standing on a stage; it is about influence and about partnering with God to realise His redemptive plan, living distinctively every day in order to do this.
Throughout and since FRESH, I have had opportunities to lead, ranging from church holiday clubs to school prefect roles to just everyday living. I am looking forward to leading on a Christian camp this summer…not long ago, I never imagined that God would lead me to a place where I would be excited about worshiping Him like this. Our God truly does do more than we can ask or imagine.
However, there have been challenges. For every girl growing, there are challenges, and sometimes, it is due to the gender-bias towards men; stereotypically, they are the leaders that women aren’t. Personally, I haven’t found this a problem yet, but I know that it can be. For me, being young has been the struggle, as adults often look down on young people for being inexperienced, sometimes suggesting that we are too naive to be able to lead well. Although we are inexperienced, I don’t think that this should hold us back – after all, Timothy wrote that we “should not let anyone look down on us because we are young”.
My advice to young women wanting to lead is simply: “Go for it!” Don’t let anything hold you back; challenge perceptions of young women in leadership by grasping hold of opportunities, letting God teach you how to trust and live for Him.