Today, I had the most fun and fulfilling afternoon meeting with a group of female high school students who were part of a group lecture series at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized by Gunilla Carlsson, Minister for International Development Cooperation.
Connecting with the young generation is a passion of mine. I think the best way, as both women and human beings, to mentor youth is by being open with our own struggles and mistakes to help others learn from them. Even more so, listening to the perspectives of young people on a host of topics from on gender equality, to education and global challenges is the best way for older generations to learn to avoid future mistakes. If we really listen to the obstacles they face, to their priorities and values, we can build so much together.
I believe that young people today are some of the most globally-minded, socially conscious and culturally connected generations, and this belief was reinforced for me by the five young women I met today. Each one of them had either already studied abroad or was planning to, spoke more than one language and most more than two languages, and had career goals focused on giving back to society–whether it be moving to the Philippines to work on clean water initiatives and support environmentalism or focusing on global health in the Horn of Africa.
I was so heartened to hear that more than half of the group was interested in science, engineering and economics— all traditionally male-dominated professions. What was most inspiring for me to hear was that none of them had ever felt that being a woman was a disadvantage or felt inferior to males in anyway. Actually, they retorted the people they knew with the highest grades and scores were all women. This made me see that despite some of the continuing challenges for women in today’s workforce that we have actually come a long way.
I tried to convey my life story as the child of immigrants, the importance of tolerance and social engagement, and finally the immense honor to have the ability to convene groups of incredibly talented and interesting people, especially young leaders like themselves, in the role I have here to them. But ultimately, I feel like it was me who left the most inspired and motivated. Meeting those young students strengthened my belief that our future as a global society rests in safe and able hands.