The first weekend in May, GOLD (Girls Only Leadership Development), a partnership program between Councilor E. Denise Simmons and the YWCA Cambridge, hosted a day long summit, Beyond All Limits, for 7th, 8th, and 9th grade girls in the Somerville and Cambridge area. The summit focused on leadership skills, self identity and expression, and meaningful career paths. I had the privilege of moderating the panel with local women who built their own careers and are paving the way for future women leaders in their field.
Maybe you are thinking – these girls are only in 7th, 8th, or 9th grade why do they need to think about careers now?
The women on the Beyond All Limits panel were diverse: a health and wellness entrepreneur, a software engineer, a poet-rapper-educator, and a photographer. Each of these women spoke about how they held onto their self expression and creativity, followed their passion, and practiced self awareness throughout their career journey. These are all values that GOLD holds and strives to uphold with the girls. As described by the panelists, it can be incredibly challenging to take on a nontraditional career path and especially difficult to feel empowered to begin this journey, whether it’s starting a business doing healing yoga or being one of the few women majoring in computer science.
Why invest in girls?
Empowering women and eliminating racism is the mission of YWCA Cambridge and it must start at a young age. Investing time and energy in these middle school girls is crucial for self empowerment, self expression and self esteem. GOLD aims to create a safe space for girls to talk about their self identity, practice leadership skills, and learn in an inter-generational space. Creating these kinds of spaces for girls builds up their self worth and helps them develop community support. Through the GOLD program, this support is cultivated not only with their peers but also with women in the Cambridge community. These spaces and this community of support empowers the girls to create their own career path and follow their authentic self.
Investing in girls breaks down barriers of inequality.
You can’t be what you don’t see – having women role models for these girls inspires them to engage in activities and to explore paths that they may not have thought of before. Strong women inspire strong GOLD girls.
Written by: Elizabeth Baldwin, YWCA Board Member and Chair of the Racial Justice Committee