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Happy International Day of the Girl: What to celebrate + where we still have work

To answer Beyonce’s question about who runs the world, GIRLS is definitely right—especially during today’s celebration of International Day of the Girl. After all, girls are capable, they’re strong and they are the future. ?

Today, there certainly is a lot to celebrate about the steps we’ve made toward gender equality. Here are three big ones that should give us all hope:

1. Schools have noticed an increase in girls interested in STEM

Much has been written about how and why men vastly outnumber women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Less than a quarter of STEM jobs are filled by women, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce and only 16% of female students graduate from STEM subjects, according to the World Economic Forum.

But there are strong indicators we’re moving in the right direction: Today’s generation of girls are ready to innovate and are showing more interest in STEM subjects in school. With those inquisitive minds engaged + on the case, the future of STEM is looking quite bright.

2. Girls are taking up male-dominated sports like football

With no separate league for little girls in football (unlike softball, soccer and even hockey), it takes a lot of grit for girls to tackle the gridiron. But more and more of them are making names for themselves in the boy’s leagues.

From the 11-year-old quarterback leading her team in the North Dakota Youth Football League to the Michigan linebacker doing double duty as Homecoming Queen, girls should be proof to everyone that they have a place in traditionally male-dominated sports. (And NFL players like Cam Newton now know better than to suggest otherwise, because girls aren’t afraid to clap back.)

3. Girls outpace boys in college enrollment and graduation

America’s girls are reaching for higher educations at higher rates than ever before. Back in 1994, only 63% of recent female high school graduates were enrolled in college in the fall following graduation (along with 61% of boys). By 2012, that number was up to 71% while the boys’ numbers remained at 61 percent.

According to the Pew Research Center, women continue to outpace men in terms of educational attainment: In 2016, more women between 25 and 34 (52%) had finished college than men of their age.

Our girls are getting interested in science and sports and they’re getting their degrees—but we still have a long way to go when it comes to true equality.

1. We need to get that pay gap in check

According to the Women in the Workplace 2017 study, women remain underrepresented at every level in corporate America despite all those degrees we’re getting. And while the gender pay gap has narrowed, we still make less than men and work more once household responsibilities are factored.

2. We need to empower our daughters to speak up

A recent study of more than 10,000 American girls found that even girls with perfect GPAs don’t think they are smart enough. And while most girls said they like to be in charge, one in three said she was afraid to act as a leader for fear of being perceived as bossy.

3. We need to boost our daughters self-esteem

Worldwide, only 46% of girls reported high levels of body esteem. That’s a big deal when you consider teaching girls to love their bodies results in higher levels of confidence, resilience and life satisfaction. So fostering good body image is an important pursuit when preparing our daughters to take on a world that still isn’t always welcoming to women.

As with everyday, we should celebrate how far we’ve come and all that our girls can do. But we shouldn’t forget how much they—and society in general—could achieve with more support. Let’s all start changing culture for the better by empowering the girls of today.

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