Young girls today have a lot of pressure on them, and as they get older, they can find it hard to remain confident in themselves. YPulse data in 2018 showed teen girls are less confident in themselves than boys their age, and that affects their outlook on how successful they can be in future career paths. Now, YPulse’s strategic services team partnered with Être, a mentorship platform for girls, to ask teen girls about their confidence again, and how mentorship could help them feel more confident in themselves and their future.
We asked 13-18-year-old girls, boys, and teens who identify as non-binary, transgender, and other genders, about their self-confidence. We also asked about their general experiences with mentorship and getting advice and found the impact a mentor can have is paramount for young girls’ confidence, especially when it comes to their potential career goals.
Looking at the data of how 13-18-year-old girls rated their confidence on a scale from 1-10, it’s clear their confidence levels drop as they get older:
Teen girls’ confidence peaks at 14 and declines as they get older
Teen girls today are more confident overall than they were five years ago, and most say they’re more confident than they were before the pandemic. But notably girls’ confidence begins to decline after 14-years-old. At 14, 78% of girls describe themselves as confident, but only 63% say so at 18, and 61% at 17. How high they rate their confidence decreases as well: peaking at 14, when girls rate their confidence at an average of 8.2, but dropping consistently as they get older, to only 7.16 at 18-years-old.
And while it might seem that 7 out of 10 is still a good level of confidence, girls are not choosing “confident” as a word to describe themselves, especially as they get older. In fact, only 36% of 13-year-old girls select “confident” as a top five attribute to describe themselves, and only 23% of 18-year-old girls do. It’s clear that many young girls are in need of a confidence boost.
Mentorship may make them more confident
Not only do fewer girls choose “confident” to define themselves as they get older, girls are also significantly less likely to define themselves as “creative” and “smart.” But, importantly, 86% of young girls say they would feel more confident if they had a mentor. When we asked how young girls are defining mentorship, one 15-year-old girl says “A mentor is someone who helps you become the person you want to become and explains to you how to become that person. They guide you in the right direction.” And this is what they’re needing as they get farther into their teen years.
There is no one specific kind of person they want as a mentor, as long as it’s someone who has expertise to offer and can inspire and help them to reach their goals. In fact, more than half say gender does not matter to them when considering a mentor, and 75% of girls say race and ethnicity does not matter either. And the sooner they find one, the better; while 71% of girls say, “Finding a mentor at any point in my journey will help me with my future,” 37% say, “I wish I found a mentor earlier to help me plan my future.” So, while their confidence is falling as they get older, a mentor could potentially not only boost their confidence, but finding one early on stop it from declining in the first place.
But even though they’re open to having a mentor, many aren’t sure how to find one; 70% of young girls agree “I am interested in finding and reaching out to a mentor, but don’t know where to start.” Others, however, say they know of people who could be good mentors, but they’re too scared to reach out. It can be especially important, then, that there are programs and brands to connect them with mentors at a young age.
Mentorship is especially important in finance, STEM, and sports
Overall, 59% of girls agree “A mentor focused on me and in the career I am interested in is very important.” But when we really dug into it, young girls with interest in finance, STEM, and sports especially think mentorship would help to boost their confidence. Because these are career areas young girls know are challenging, and are currently more male-led industries, they see a mentorship as a way to better believe in their goals and become successful.
Financial mentorship is something many young girls are looking for, and think would be a boost to their confidence not only in future careers, but their current lives. In fact, 86% say they would be more likely to speak out or raise their hand in classes if they had a personal mentor to help with their confidence. This goes for girls in STEM, too—84% say they’d be more likely to speak out or raise my hand in STEM classes if they had a personal mentor to help with their confidence.
For young girls in sports, coaches and professional or collegiate players are ideal mentors, who would help to boost their confidence beyond athletics. Half of girls currently playing sports or interested in sports say they have never had a sports mentor, but would really want one. And while most say a mentor would help them significantly with their confidence as an athlete themselves, 77% say a sports mentor would give them more confidence about any future career they choose.
Mentorship in these fields is especially important to young girls, but in general, teen girls are looking for guidance. Our research shows they know exactly what a mentor could do for them, and that finding or being matched with one early in their teen years could be a game-changer for their self-confidence. Mentors matter…earlier than you might think. And diving into this data showed us, along with Être, that early access to mentors will not only boost girls’ confidence exactly when they need it most, but will keep their confidence high as they contemplate big futures.