Research shows that moms are a consistent influence in girls’ lives, playing a big role in their career ambitions. We also know that they, sometimes unintentionally, impact girls’ confidence. Did you know that math anxiety can be “passed down” from moms to girls? That’s why Emilie Liebhoff and I co-founded Moms as Mentors, a nonprofit organization that provides moms with the tools and opportunities to be mentors in their daughters’ daily lives. Ultimately, it helps their girls grow into confident and influential women. We believe that moms can integrate small changes into their daily lives to improve career outcomes and raise entrepreneurial girls.
At Moms as Mentors, we define “mentor” as a trusted advisor who promotes confidence, strength and perseverance in the face of inevitable obstacles. We believe that ALL moms can be mentors in their daughters’ lives, regardless of their own education or career paths. Of course, that includes you, as well.
Develop an interest for entrepreneurship
One of our areas of focus is the role moms play in nurturing their daughter’s entrepreneurial spirit. This means fostering resilience, curiosity, adaptability, determination and creative problem solving. Armed with these qualities, girls can develop the confidence to pursue whatever career path they want, be it becoming a CEO of their own start-up, an engineer or a research scientist. All industries need creative problem-solvers with grit and tenacity, people who ask new questions, identify new processes and can bounce back and adapt when things don’t go as planned.
Embracing your daughter’s creativity
In our mom-daughter entrepreneurship program Make It Count!, we feature an activity where moms work to raise entrepreneurial girls by collaborating on a mom-daughter business plan. First, they come up with the name and concept for their business. We are always so impressed with the creative ideas that emerge from the mom-daughter pairs, often thought of by the daughter! Some of my favorite ideas I’ve heard are:
- A potato themed water park
- A clothing store that doesn’t sell anything pink
- A full shopping mall dedicated entirely to serving cats (they would offer cat grooming, cat toys, boarding, outfits etc.)
After they have a concept and name, the next important step is for the moms and girls to pick their titles and roles in the company. We love walking around during our programs and overhearing a mom telling her daughter, “YOU should be the CEO, because you are the one with the big ideas.” They then start to think through what materials they will need, pricing, how they will get customers and what their logo will be (a particularly fun part for many of the girls!).
Knowing that so many women struggle with imposter syndrome, we think it’s so important for girls to start declaring their own power at a young age. They can feel comfortable thinking of themselves as a leader.
How can you encourage your daughter?
Any mom can work to encourage and raise entrepreneurial girls at home, regardless of participating in one of our programs. Here are some top tips to nurture the “inner entrepreneur” of an important girl in your life.
Create your own (real or imaginary!) mom-daughter business.
Talk to one another about what kind of business it would be and what kind of role you would each have. If you decide to make actual handmade products together, you can try to sell it on Etsy or another service. Whether the business is real or imaginary, you can come up with a logo, advertisement and even design business cards with your titles on them.
Encourage curiosity and question-asking
You can connect it to what already interests her. If your daughter loves soccer, ask her questions like:
- Why do you think the soccer ball is designed the way it is?
- Could you design a better soccer ball?
- What would that look like and why might it be better?
- How could you design a better soccer cleat?
- Could you draw a prototype of what it might look like?
Provide opportunities for your daughter to “tinker” and join in.
Manipulating and experimenting with physical objects helps girls develop many important skills and gets them thinking in new, creative ways. If an appliance breaks, take it apart together and see what’s inside. If she loves princesses, have her build a castle out of crafts and recycled materials.
Share your success stories that involve grit and determination.
Success is often portrayed as a straight path. Help girls understand that the path to success can be messy, with all kinds of twists and turns. To encourage resilience, tell her that your own path required (and will continue to require) resilience. Let her see that you aren’t perfect, and that she doesn’t have to be either.
Promote a Growth Mindset – “I can’t do it YET …”
Whenever your daughter is trying something new or finding something challenging, try to emphasize a growth mindset by reinforcing that she can’t do it yet. Let her know that with practice, time, guidance and a community of support, she can improve at anything and feel more competent and confident. Try using examples from other things she has improved at (such as sports or music) to help her relate to this new challenge. Celebrate facing failures or challenges as a sign she is trying to do something hard. That’s a good thing!
More activities to raise entrepreneurial girls
A great free, downloadable resource is the VentureLab Child & Caregiver Workbook. To download it and learn more about their parent resources, go to https://venturelab.org/parents.
And if you want to experience a Moms as Mentors Make It Count! Program, we now offer them virtually! Email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more. Visit momsasmentors.org to learn more about our organization.
Whatever you try at home, remember that you can nurture your daughter’s entrepreneurial spirit daily. Encourage the qualities of an entrepreneur, including curiosity, creativity, tenacity, adaptability and resilience. And if you see that she is exhibiting these qualities, let her know how great that is, and explicitly let her know she is being entrepreneurial, even if she didn’t even realize it!
About Leslie Coles
Leslie Coles is dedicated to improving opportunities for girls, developing impactful programs that shape and build confidence and leadership. She is Co-Founder and Executive Director of Moms as Mentors, a non-profit dedicated to giving mothers and other caregivers the tools and opportunities to raise girls to become confident female leaders, particularly in areas where women are underrepresented (including STEM fields, entrepreneurship and politics).
Leslie is currently a Project Manager at MIT, Open Learning. She also is an ambassador for She+ Geeks Out, an organization that provides tech and tech-adjacent women and other marginalized genders and their allies an opportunity to network and connect with each other as well as with companies who wish to hire them and offers corporate trainings to support companies in their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
Previously, she served as Director of Programs for VentureLab, an organization focused on creating the next generation of innovators and changemakers through entrepreneurial learning. Prior to that she was Director of Strategic Initiatives & Programs at the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools, where she took the lead role in implementing programs that advanced their mission to empower girls to be influential contributors to the world.