Dream big about the ways you can change the world together. Esther Cho, December 2013 speaker
February 5, 2014
MESSAGES THAT INSPIRE
Girls and parents who attend our events get a chance to hear wonderful messages from women (and men) who have “been there, done that” and who can take a moment to reflect on how their journey may be an example for others.
You may remember Heather Emerson of IDEO, who delivered a keynote at our March 2013 conference and said:
An innovator is someone who looks at the world through the lens of opportunity. Everything around us is opportunity, and that is what the best innovators do.
Or Judy Estrin, who delivered the opening keynote at our June 2013 conference and advised:
The most important thing is to try – try different things. It’s almost more important to figure out what you don’t like than it is to figure out what you do like.
Or Heidi Roizen, who shared about the 20-40-60 Rule as closing keynote speaker at our June 2013 conference and revealed:
No one’s really thinking that much about you; you have got to be your own advocate. On the flip side, no one’s really thinking that much about you, so don’t worry too much about making mistakes. Those of us who have succeeded, we have done a whole bunch of things, many of which have been failures. If you worry, you won’t try; and if you don’t try, you can’t succeed.
Or Ann Winblad, who said:
Find these two virtues in everything you do: kindness and joy.
Or Sue Kwon, who said:
Life is not a competition. The more you share your stories, the more you’ll be surprised at how willing people are to support you. Women are individuals with great talents, great skills and great potential, and individuals need each other.
Or Erika Geihe Stanzl, who said:
You need to define what success means for you, and you need to be willing to change that definition as life changes.
Or Pamela Keith, who said:
Dream with wild abandon of the things you want to do in this lifetime, and then have the courage to do them. Remember that the bravest people can also be the most fearful people. It takes great courage for a fearful person to break through that fear. But to grow, our courage must become bigger than our fear. Be brave enough to jump. Be someone who is known for her courage.
Or Farida Rahman, who said:
During the formative years of middle school thru high school, great mentors should be brought in to expose the girls to the endless possibilities that computer science can bring to their future realms of work.
Or Maggie McCloud, who said:
To further my career at Google, I want to keep improving upon my communication skills. Communicating internally is key to success at Google and having presence and delivery skills sets you apart. This is also a bit more personal but I think will also help my career at Google – I really want to learn to code!
We asked them to speak to girls and parents because it’s never too early to start exploring and hearing stories of being challenged, overcoming challenges, and taking challenges head-on.
Inspiration comes from not just sound-bytes but meeting in person someone whose journey broadens your understanding of the world and leads you to believe you could walk in their path (or pave your very own) one day.
Our speakers speak from the heart because they know one can’t be superficial in front of kids, who can tolerate neither vagueness nor inauthenticity. In a world where every word you say could be hyperlinked and repeated, this has been a tall order for our speakers. Because they care, they answered it; and because they answered, the impact on our participants has been tremendous.
“I WANT TO DO SOMETHING”
At the end of our June conference last year, a teen came up to me and said, “I have been to both of your events, and I want to do something for the next one.”
I was genuinely surprised. I heard that kind of statement from moms immediately following our March event, but not from girls. Some time between March and June, this thought developed in the minds of some of the girls, as well.
At the time, I didn’t know what this teen could do or how to engage her (true confession: I had never organized a conference until then). But I heard her yearning to be a part of something, to do something, and it was a message that I was to hear again in the coming months, as I (initially with tentativeness) set up a Teen Committee and invited girls to share their desires to contribute and make an impact.
Our Teen Committee is now in full force. Every girl is at a different place in terms of her readiness for “the stage,” so to speak, but they all have the desire. I believe that desire comes from having been fed stories that inspired them. I asked myself, “If a girl comes to me who is inspired, how can I fail to take that opportunity to help her spread her wings?”
If I questioned my ability to help a girl, I would be discrediting my own experience as a mother and a woman who has had many tumultuous moments in her own life, where she questioned her very existence and managed to survive.
There’s also this: As a mother of a ten-year-old, I never thought opportunities for me to influence my daughter could potentially run out while she’s still under my roof. Having met many moms of teenagers in the last year, though, I see that, indeed, as girls come into their own, it becomes harder to see which opportunities to choose or when a door is open to her world. Sometimes, even if a door opens, it may not be you who should walk through it. And that’s where it could be valuable to have a community of others – adults and peers – whose presence and input could help one’s daughter spread her wings.
We all have something to give; I truly believe that. It is not our life experiences (or lack thereof) that hold us back from impacting another – it is our mindset. I hope for my own daughter – much as I have always longed for myself – that a community of women and girls (and other caring adults) will always be available to support her to be her best and purposeful self. That is what drives me every day to echo the words “girls innovate” in my thoughts, words and actions.
Our framework for helping a girl spread her wings and make an impact based on a vision of her own choosing and execution is multi-dimensional:
Mentoring. When you go to one of our events, what a girl hears and what she does are equally important. We choose our speakers and facilitators very carefully. However, it’s not a matter of finding the most well-known, experienced or knowledgeable. What matters most is that they have a heart to serve this community of girls and moms and a willingness to share their stories, teach what they know, answer questions, and provide feedback. We call this a “mentoring mindset.” From there, we help guide speakers to conduct their workshops or talks in an engaging, meaningful way.
Immersion. In line with the mentoring framework, we emphasize learning from each other as much as possible – via hands-on, collaborative group work; intergenerational dialogue; storytelling; peer-to-peer teaching; question/answer; presentation/critique; role-playing; and live podcast interviews.
Exposure. We focus on visionary leadership that impacts the world in meaningful ways (innovation in all arenas – social/economic, business/non-business, STEM/humanities). Our content gears towards what’s possible and needed for that kind of effective, visionary and impactful leadership. Think of “executive education” – we unravel what contemporary leaders are being taught to find the kernels that could and should be distilled for girls as they think about a future where they can make an impact. We as organizers are not experts by any means in these fields; what we do is rely on the power of community to harness the talents of individuals who do know the topics at hand and provide an introduction for girls that may help inspire them for the next step in their journey, whatever that may be.
In sum, it is about introduction and exposure – planting the seeds of what can be and giving possible roadmaps for getting there. After all, the journey towards that kind of leadership is many thousands of steps…
It is not over-reaching to ask a girl to open her mind, to develop skills now that could serve her purposes down the road. In fact, many of these girls are ready, as shown by the teens who have asked us to help them “do something.”
We are excited to march on together!
– Uyen (founder/organizer), on behalf of our entire team of volunteers and project leaders