What Young Women Leaders Can Do to Strengthen the Impact of Utah Girls and Young Women

Utah is full of engaged, passionate individuals who frequently ask the question, “What can I personally and/ or professionally do to strengthen the impact of Utah girls and women?” To provide specific answers to that question, the Utah Women & Leadership Project (UWLP) hosted a series of “think tank” gatherings to collect best practices for various stakeholders interested in supporting and empowering Utah girls and women. This idea sheet is based on a 2019 gathering of 30 Young Women leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter, “the Church”) in Utah. Since around 60% of Utahns identify as members of the Church, these leaders have the potential to influence a large segment of Utah teens. This discussion focused on how leaders could help young women find purpose and perspective, develop new knowledge and skills, form healthy relationships, and grow as leaders. Attendees also discussed how they could advocate for young women with other stakeholders.

Purpose & Perspective

  • Young Women leaders focus primarily on helping girls develop their spirituality, gain a larger sense of personal purpose, and embrace a long-term perspective. Leaders can help young women feel grounded in these areas as they do the following:
  • Teach girls explicitly that their worth is inherent, limitless, and unchanging. This will help counteract external messages that they are “not enough.”
  • Encourage growth through personal devotion (e.g. prayer, reading sacred books, attending services, pondering and discussing matters of faith).
  • Discuss the value that comes from practicing faith both upward (toward deity) and outward (connecting with other people).

Knowledge & Skills

Leaders have many opportunities to equip young women with a wide variety of new information and widely applicable skills. They can help teen girls prepare for the future in the following ways:

  • Use classroom instruction, workshops, and activities to teach and practice communication and social skills, including public speaking, listening and validating others’ ideas, formulating thoughtful questions, finding connections and common ground, and problem solving.
  • Provide training for a variety of practical life skills, including those that are often taught to young men (e.g., bike and car repair, household maintenance, personal finance).
  • Stress the value of higher education and lifelong learning; teach young women that education will serve them and their families in all areas of their lives.

Relationships

The teenage years are critical for learning how to develop healthy relationships. Successful leaders will form strong connections with the young women in their congregations and guide their efforts to build relationships with others:

  • Work side by side with young women, listen with intent, and ask for direct feedback on how to best lead and serve them.
  • Become familiar with the ways teens communicate and interact (i.e., technologies), then invite them to stretch beyond those and practice one-on-one and face-to-face communication as well.
  • Get to know girls outside the church setting; attend their sporting events, recitals, or other activities; and ensure they feel known and loved as individuals.

Leadership Development

The Young Women organization is specifically designed to prepare teens to lead (both within the Church and in other areas). Leaders can support this process among young women as they do the following:

  • Teach girls to form their own leadership identity; educate them about what leadership is, why it is so important for them to lead, and help them to see themselves as leaders.
  • Adopt a step-by-step leadership training model, recognizing that development will take time; ensure that all adult leaders are committed to the process of allowing girls to truly assume responsibility, autonomy, and ownership.
  • Identify numerous areas where young women can take on leadership roles (e.g., planning activities and events, running meetings, participating in classroom instruction, reaching out to class members, leading in their homes). 

Broader Influence

Finally, in addition to working with girls directly, these leaders are also well positioned to influence attitudes and perspectives on behalf of the young women they serve. Leaders can positively impact their congregations as they do the following:

  • Raise awareness of the ways that young women in Utah are diverse. As leaders seek out and listen to teens from varied racial/ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic situations, and other life circumstances, they will be able to enhance understanding and unity within their congregations.
  • Ensure all stakeholders are aware of the many church resources available to serve the youth.
  • Encourage male leaders to increase their involvement with Young Women classes and activities so they can be stronger advocates.

To learn more about What Young Women Leaders Can Do to Strengthen the Impact of Utah Girls and Young Women read the entire brief.

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