Last week, I had the pleasure of joining my friends at I AM THAT GIRL for #GIRL2017, their first-ever multi-day conference for girls (age 14-22) in their community.
I've been invited to speak on behalf of She's the First before, and am pretty confident standing in front of a room talking about our programs and the power of girls' education. This was my first experience talking about my own story, and I was so nervous about it that even after flying across the entire country (literally) to be there, I thought about backing out.
My workshop, titled Leadership 101, covered my history of finding my identity as a leader. Here are the highlights:
- Losing my middle school election to a boy who called me "bossy"
- Comparing myself to the "leaders" in my high school who were popular, rich, outspoken, and nothing at all like me
- Figuring out, as an over-involved college student, that leadership has nothing to do with the titles you hold and everything to do with putting your values into action to make an impact
I ended the workshop with an exercise. On the screen, I shared a long list of words, asking attendees to write down all of the words that they associate with leaders and want to incorporate into their personal leadership style. Then they had to narrow the list down to just five words, and later just two. Then, girls volunteered to share their answers with the group.
If you'd asked me to complete an exercise like this in high school, I probably would have selected words that I thought reflected leadership: confidence, extroversion, power, influence. Their answers were much wiser: passion, authenticity, empathy, humility, patience. These girls, this entire generation of girls, get it. Leadership isn't about being the loudest in the room or the one making all the rules. Real leadership is about putting other people first, listening, learning, and growing. They're ready to lead with vulnerability and authenticity and compassion, and I'm so glad to have a part in giving them a platform to do it.
The future is female. Thank goodness.