Survey finds youth mentorship is a strong driver of confidence in Canadian women

Survey finds youth mentorship is a strong driver of confidence in Canadian women

Toronto, ON – November 19, 2014 – A new study from the Canadian Women’s Foundation finds that having a mentor in your youth is a strong driver of confidence in adulthood. Among those women that cited having low self-confidence (32%), close to three-quarters (72%) believe that they would be more confident now if they had a mentor in their youth.

Among the 50% of Canadian women that had a positive mentor in their youth, an overwhelming majority of Canadian women (83%) believe they are confident now because of it.

“Building confidence doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a life-long process that begins at an early age,” says Beth Malcolm, Director Girls’ Fund at the Canadian Women’s Foundation. “For girls, having a positive mentor in their lives, who offers non-judgemental support and helps them identify their unique strengths, is key to building their confidence as they grow up.”

According to the survey, an overwhelming majority of Canadians (63%) are more likely to think that young girls look up to movie stars and pop stars the most compared to near zero levels for scientists (only 2%) and writers/authors (only 6%). In a culture where women and girls’ self-worth is measured against idealized and unrealistic images of beauty, confidence begins to erode as women/girls believe their worth comes from their physical appearance rather than intelligence, courage, curiosity or critical thinking skills.

Samantha Cochrane, Manager of Girls’ Mentoring at the Canadian Women’s Foundation, adds: “At the Canadian Women’s Foundation, we want every girl to believe in herself and realize she matters. A mentor can help girls move into confidence by not only modeling a positive lifestyle, but also encouraging and believing in the mentees. A mentor becomes that someone a girl can openly discuss their life challenges with, that person who encourages positive choices.”

Other findings in the study revealed:

  • Less than half of Canadians (48%) had a mentor in their youth.
  • About 6 out of 10 very confident Canadians had a mentor in their youth (59%).
  • Two-thirds of Canadians (64%) do not think that girls look up to their parents most.
  • Slightly under a quarter of Canadians think girls look up to siblings (24%) or teachers (22%).
  • Only 14% of Canadians think young girls look up to Athletes.

For more information about the Canadian Women’s Foundation and statistics referenced on girls in Canada, visit

As it turns out, confidence is at the root of a surprising number of life outcomes for girls. Here’s 5 reasons why it’s important to help girls build their confidence:

  1. Improved school grades. Research shows that an undue focus on outward appearance impairs girls’ ability to focus and concentrate. For girls, improved confidence and a healthy body image may lead to improved academic outcomes.
  2. Better physical health. A lack of confidence about one’s appearance makes you less likely to be physically active—a major reason why only 11% of girls aged 16-17 are physically active enough to benefit their health. Girls who are self-conscious about their appearance actually limit their physical movements during sports. In one study, the girls who were most concerned about how they looked scored the lowest in a simple ball-throwing test.
  3. A stronger voice. Confident girls are more likely to speak out against bullying, and to tell an adult if they experience sexual harassment or assault. One of the main reasons girls lack confidence is the constant exposure to highly sexualized images of women in media. Research shows this onslaught causes girls to be highly critical of their bodies, undermining their confidence and increasing feelings of shame, anxiety and self-disgust.
  4. More career choices. Girlswho are confident in their own abilities and their ability to learn and meet challenges are more likely to explore careers that don’t fit the traditional idea of “women’s work.” Research shows that girls chronically underestimate their math abilities and tend to drop out of higher level mathematics in high school. Building their confidence will help girls know they can succeed in all careers, including science, technology, engineering and math.
  5. Higher earning potential.Over her lifetime, the average woman will earn about 65% of the wages of the average man—only $519,600 compared to $803,000. Not surprisingly, ‘non-traditional’ jobs are more likely to be higher paid and offer more opportunity for advancement. Also, it takes confidence to ask for a raise, take on leadership, and advocate for fair workplace policies—all of which can boost your lifetime earnings

From November 12th to November 13th 2014 an online survey was conducted among 1,005 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to education, age, gender and region (and in Quebec language). Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.  

For more information, you can visit the Canadian Women’s Foundation online at or tweet using hashtag #cdnwomen.