Recently I had an ‘A-ha moment’: I have underestimated the impact that women role models and mentors can have on women and girls.

The fact that it took me half a lifetime to see this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. I’ve built my 26-year career in the tech sector, which famously has more men than women in senior leadership positions. As a result, there have been more male role models and mentors in my life. For that I will be forever grateful; however, I feel like I’ve been missing out too.

It was about two years ago when I first started to truly see the impact women and girls can have on each other. I took a women’s leadership training program and during that time, I made it a point to actively grow my network of women.  It wasn’t about having more female friends, although that’s been fantastic too.  It was about engaging, collaborating, learning, and sharing experiences and asking for advice and guidance from other talented women. It was exhilarating as I expanded my network out of tech and saw so many amazing women doing extraordinary things in my home province of New Brunswick.  I realized that my work world had given me a more narrow perspective on the world, focused around tech and its prevalence of men working in the industry that I have been a part of for many years.

As I did more leadership training and then started delivering women’s leadership programming, I found I loved spending time with other women as we worked on our skills leading us to become better leaders and people. It was powerful and it led to a life-changing realization: that I will focus my energies on working with girls and young women.

With that, I took a course with the Girls Leadership Organization at Stanford University and I was on a new path of personal discovery and I could feel it.  I started dreaming of how to combine my years of leadership experience with my love of engaging with girls for them to be their best selves.

I started by reaching out into my own community. I designed Growing Leaders, a six-week leadership program for teen girls, and called up St. Malachy’s High School because I had heard they were interested in new programming for their students. I pitched Vice Principal Christina Barrington and she said yes! I was off, with support from my expanded women’s network some of whom spoke at Growing Leaders’ sessions. The video below, created by UP+GO Leader Emily St. Pierre, gives you a taste of that first program.

That was the beginning of this passion to deliver events and programming to teens and young women – with a vision of more to come.  I’ve seen the impact that strong, brave women can have on high school girls when they see and hear women’s stories.  I’ve experienced high school girls learning about themselves and others in a welcoming, safe, and supportive environment.  It’s empowering!

So, what do I say – get UP+GO!  My brand for this start-up.

The tag is Be Brave. Be You.

This is me, being brave and creating a girls’ movement in New Brunswick as the starting ground.

Let’s go!

Author: Cathy

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