The stats for women, globally, regarding leadership and career leave much to be desired. In fact, according to College Times, four in ten businesses worldwide have no women in senior management. The UN study entitled the World's Women Globally, reported that while over the years, women have entered various traditionally male-dominated occupations they are still rarely employed in jobs with status, power and authority or in traditionally male blue-collar occupations. In the United States, new studies report that women outnumber men as managers in fields like human resources, health administration and education–but most women surveyed still said they faced a glass ceiling limiting their rise to the top echelons of business. And minority women get the short end of the stick when it comes to equal pay. According to College Times, African-American women earn 64 cents to every dollar earned by white men and Hispanic women just 52 cents per dollar.
A growing program based in California targeting young women hopes to help change these stats. G.U.R.L.S. Rock Leadership Program was founded in 2010 by practicing attorney-turned-social entrepreneur Dr. Raye Mitchell. A global leadership-training initiative of The Making a New Reality Foundation, “G.U.R.L.S.” stands for Growth, Unity, Respect, Leadership, Success.
As a social entrepreneur program celebrating the importance of girls and girls of color ages 8 to 18 as the next generation of global leaders, G.U.R.L.S. has trained hundreds of girls through workshops in the Bay Area and around the country. “We also work with girls one-on-one and operate multi-platform projects to reach a wide audience of girls, including plans for books, e-books training materials, our Internet TV program and more,” says Mitchell. “We are closing the leadership training gap for girls and girls of color. We don’t want the images of girls of color the world sees to be limited to them being seen only as needy, troubled, victims of crime, drugs, poverty and/or “at-risk”.”
On April 28, 2012 G.U.R.L.S. will launch a new program called, The Global Leadership Project. “It is a multiplatform, global leadership initiative to engage girls to be global leaders. They will have a chance to compete to participate in a fully-paid-for trip abroad. They will be able to bring a guardian, participate in writing a book on leadership by and for girls, and be a part of a film project about girls as global leaders,” explains Mitchell. “Mentors and volunteers will be able to participate by turning their ordinary vacations into an opportunity to travel, vacation, mentor and be mentors and volunteers. It a chance for a cause-vacation.”
Recently, the organization debuted Pretty $mart G.U.R.L.S. apparel, which is designed by the girls, inspired by their vision to create positive messages. Sales proceeds enable scholarships for individual girls to attend G.U.R.L.S. Rock Leadership Summits. G.U.R.L.S. recently competed in Walmart's "Get on the Shelf" contest, a competition where the voting public can decide the fate of a product to be sold online at Walmart and ultimately obtain shelf space for its merchandise in Walmart stores. Pretty $mart G.U.R.L.S. logo apparel started as a protest and national outcry against a message printed on J.C. Penney sweatshirts: "I'm too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me." The girls found the message demeaning and inappropriate.
The organization is also gearing up for its landmark GLOBAL LEADERSHIP PROJECT 2014, a multi-platform project targeted at girls 12-18. It combines leadership training, travel, and community engagement. A group of girls, mentors and volunteers will embark on a global leadership journey during which they will learn and exchange leadership skills and return home to generate a local impact project by being a part of a film project and being co-authors of a book on global leadership written by girls and for girls.
“We are negotiating an exciting new book series with the potential to collaborate with a major NY Times bestselling author to support our youth as leaders,” explains Mitchell. “The book series will be called, The M.B.A. Series, which stands for motivated, brilliant achievers. It is a new and innovative engagement tool for our youth and youth of color.”
G.U.R.L.S. is doing outreach to attract more young women. “We are executing an awareness campaign using social media, public relations and personal contacts. We are looking to connect with like-minded organizations and media outlets that are on the look-out for an innovative game change when it comes to promoting and generating change to support girls of color,” reveals Mitchell. “We promote our program with all of the founder’s alumni networks, community organizations and committed supporters. The word is spreading that we are changing the way we engage girls as future global leaders.”
Mitchell is on a mission to advance women worldwide—a hefty challenge but she says she and G.U.R.L.S. are more than up to the task. “Our organization is important because it is a social entrepreneur enterprise that engages the girls in being champions and leaders of their own solutions,” she notes.