By Victoria Waterman

When I delivered my TEDxNatick talk last year, there was a genuine moment of clarity for most who viewed it. The entitled “Today’s Girls are Tomorrow’s Leaders” shines a light on a critical focal point we may be overlooking when grappling with how to increase the number of women in leadership positions: We need to start with 10-year-old girls.

To be fair, more women are in key leadership positions today than ever before.

Yet, after decades of research and getting women to lean in to leadership, how is it that, women in senior roles in corporate America have increased 1% in the past 10 years – just 1 percent in a decade!

At the current rate of change, it will take until 2059 for women to earn the same as men for doing the same job.And it’s even bleaker for women of color. That means women as a whole will be underpaid for at least the next 40 years!

We can’t wait that long!

What are we missing?

In my view, we focus (rightly so) on encouraging women to climb the ladder of success … but we forget those women started as girls.

We need to get girls to the bottom rung of that ladder and make sure it is strong enough to hold them as they climb.

Girls need to take the first step of that steep climb when they are 10 years old.

I’ve witnessed firsthand the impactful results of intervening when girls are 10.

“Stronger, Smarter, Bolder: Girls Take the Lead” is the newly released report from Girls Inc., which takes a comprehensive look at ensuring girls are prepared to succeed in leadership roles in all professional fields and their communities.

The report states girls who participate in the Girls Inc. experience have an advantage over their peers in more than 20 key areas!

Following the rigorous comparison study, Girls Inc. recommends four crucial supports to allow girls to realize their potential:

• The right relationships

• Encouragement to develop and use their voices

• A positive self-image

• Intellectual confidence

We should not diminish or stop empowering women to climb the ladder of success, but we need to start earlier in getting girls to that ladder!

Imagine, if girls step on the first rung of that ladder with confidence to realize their potential, maybe we won’t have to wait 40 years.

Victoria Waterman is the CEO at Girls Inc. of Worcester and a TEDxNatick speaker.