Three years ago, I attended an event at the Weisman Art Museum on the University of Minnesota campus hosted by the Center for Girls’ Leadership – a small-but-mighty nonprofit dedicated to inspiring girls today to lead tomorrow. I immediately wanted to get involved, but – considering my hectic college senior schedule – I put my name on the sure-I’d-love-to-help-someday list and put it on the back burner. As the year went on, I made sure to keep in touch periodically with the executive director, Alex Young, in the hopes I’d be able to fully commit to the organization one day.
Flash forward to May 2015: Graduation, a job offer from Bellmont Partners and a mountain of free time previously reserved for papers and projects. I emailed Alex yet again asking if she needed help with the CGL. She obliged, this time asking me to join the board and help her grow the organization. I’ve been on the board of directors for almost two years and, now in our sixth year, we’re striving to cultivate meaningful relationships with a diverse group of incredible women across the Twin Cities. This past weekend, we hosted a new event called Girls in Media. The goal was to create an experience geared toward helping girls create their own values-based messaging as an alternative to many of the negative stereotypes and images they’re served in TV shows, movies, music and more. The girls created Instagram stories, wrote an outline for a print newspaper article, brainstormed new CGL programs and ways to market them, and stretched their leadership and confidence skills by presenting their work at the end of the event.
Bellmont Partners graciously sponsored Girls in Media and my dear friend and colleague Briana Gruenewald sat on our panel of incredible women from a variety of media careers. The rest of the panel included Kelly Jordan (former WCCO-AM and KSTP-TV producer), Batala McFarlane (publisher of Insight News) and Deborah Honore (a current student at the University of St. Thomas and alumna of ThreeSixty Journalism). These women inspired a roomful of girls ages 9 to 14 to be true to themselves no matter what and shared tips for succeeding in media careers. Here are three other pieces of advice attendees got that I wish I knew before I entered high school.
1. Don’t be afraid to reach out. If you’re drawn to a certain teacher, coach or community person, reach out! Don’t hesitate to ask them to coffee or to pick their brain about how they got where they are. I know there are at least 14 people at Bellmont Partners alone who are more than willing to chat over coffee. We’ve all experienced first-hand just how important mentors can be.
2. If you want to do something, do it. Don’t bother with the what-ifs – if you’re passionate about a side project or interested in a certain subject of knowledge, pursue it! Use the resources you have now to create something. And if those resources aren’t there, reach out to someone who may have them. See above for your next step.
3. Build each other up, don’t tear each other down. As competitive, goal-oriented women, it can be easy to feel threatened by another successful woman or tear each other down in pursuit of success. But the real magic happens when we find other women who share our personal values and push each other to be our best selves. I’m so lucky to work in an office where 12 out of 14 of us are women. We build each other up and celebrate our successes each and every day.
I’m so excited to see how the CGL grows from here, and I’m so grateful for the supportive culture Bellmont Partners fosters. Our agency even recently started an initiative appropriately titled “Bellmont Gives Back,” encouraging each of us to spend a few hours each month giving back to the community in any way we’re personally passionate about. If you’re interested in volunteering or learning more about the Center for Girls’ Leadership, visit www.cglmn.org.