I had the honor of addressing the delegates at The GirlUp Campaign last week at their annual summit in Washington D.C. This program, started by the United Nations Foundation, GirlUp’s mission is to empower girls to find their voice as leaders, while sponsoring at-risk girls around the world.
If you thought teenage girlhood was full of nail polish, boys, and cattiness, think again. The only “boy talk” was a conversation on how to get the boys in their respective schools involved in solving global issues that face young women worldwide. They tackle issues ranging from teen marriage to the lack of education opportunities to micro finance and discuss with a great deal of maturity Malala Yousafzai. Two of the girls spoke about the inequalities in Guatemala, noting that in their research, "Midwives are paid more for delivering boys, than girls". After a few moments to ruminate, the girls sprang into action with bespoke programs to make programs tangible, while teaching one to have inner confidence by realizing that asking for donations for others 'is not about you'.
Whether the girls were attentively learning how to write Op-Eds or Skyping with a Bollywood superstar, the optimism and energy that filled the room was an inspiring reminder that these are the leaders of tomorrow, and they are here to stay. The enemy of course is conformity. Yet corporations of the not-so-distant future are going to want to have this talent, who are values-lead, collaborative and tech-forward. My wife Mary and I––along with Samantha and Nissa from our staff–– held a workshop to help the girls solve the problems they face using their inner Athena Traits. The girls approached their problem solving with an unbelievable amount of collaboration, empathy, and connectedness, a real-life reminder of the growing relevance and urgency of feminine-led leadership.
When fellow speaker Tina Tchen, Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama, reminded us that on the fiftieth anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, women make just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, I was comforted to know that I was in a room full of women capable of changing that statistic.
I’m proud to say my daughter, Nina, the youngest delegate at this conference, will be joining the ranks of this impressive collection of girls in the fall by starting a GirlUp club at her school, The Little Red School in Manhattan. Exhausted on the train ride home, we noted in her notes were words like "girls can do anything" and a point I made about President Shimon Peres, who said "we are in a new world with many old minds".
At Girl Up, nothing could be further from the case.
All proceeds from the Athena Doctrine Support Girl Up. Please check them out, www.girlup.org. And @girlup