Balance for Better: Sher Rill Ng on gender stereotypes & imbalances

For International Women’s Day we asked some of our authors to write about this year’s theme Balance for Better, and here Sher Rill Ng looks at why balance is better for business, innovation, and the world.

A couple of years ago, a study was released showing that as a result of gender stereotypes, girls begin to doubt their own intelligence from age six, whereas boys don’t, and that this can affect their education and career choices. I found this information – that at such a young age, girls already have the message ingrained in them that their abilities are limited because of their gender– alarming and concerning.

We can see gender imbalances everywhere – boardrooms, governments, STEM careers, income and wealth, just to name a few. I’ve seen gender balance dismissed in the workplace, sometimes hearing that ‘we hire based on talent’ – who knew it was so hard to find a talented woman?

I know that surrounding yourself with the familiar keeps you comfortable – I’ll always breathe a sigh of relief when I’m in a room where the majority of people are women – but it’s the unfamiliar that can result in more ideas and perspectives. Ensuring that we have gender-balanced workplaces and industries needs to be understood as being about having a diversity of skills in a team that will open doors to innovation, different ways of thinking and better results, rather than ticking a box on a checklist.

I didn’t write Our Little Inventor in response to the study – I’d been developing the story for some years – but having seen and heard the ways in which women are underrepresented in so many fields and roles was definitely key to building Nell’s world and narrative. Nell is first and foremost a person who sees a problem and takes the initiative to offer a solution.

I deliberately show her as physically small compared to the world around her, particularly in the moments where she is intimidated, but never bring into question her mind or grit, even when faced by the room of men in charge of her city. These men are failing to see how their confined choices are negatively affecting the Big City, and their unwillingness to accept Nell’s solution turns out for the worst for them. Maybe, to some, it’s an exaggeration, but I think it’s very close to reality.

In Our Little Inventor, gender balance isn’t for the individual or fought by the individual, and doesn’t work to invade a space or take away privileges. The story carries a very uncomplicated message about ideas and inclusivity, and I hope that readers, both young and old, can see a lot of our world in this book and critically question what needs to change.

Read more from our authors about creating a Balance for Better, and check back on International Women’s Day for our IWD reading list where you can win a book stack of essential reading.

About Sher Rill Ng and Our Little Inventor

Sher Rill Ng is a Melbourne-based illustrator. At age 9 she was inspired by the drawings of a fellow classmate and promptly acquired a ‘How to draw’ book, soon becoming ‘that-kid-in-class-who-draws’.

Though she’s dabbled in photography, music and games design, Sher Rill always comes back to her passion: art and illustration. Much of her work is inspired by animated films, and from the books she reads. Her illustrations have been featured on numerous websites, and she has exhibited in several group exhibitions, including the Light Grey Art Lab (Minnesota) and Gallery 1988 (Los Angeles).

Her first book, Our Little Inventor, is a gorgeous and inspiring picture book about a young girl, Nell, who invents a machine to fix the pollution that is choking the city. A wonderful book about a girl with a big idea and a determined spirit, and who just needs a little help to make the world a better place for everyone.

Learn more about Sher Rill Ng on her website: www.sherrillng.com

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