Girls in Government, Leadership, and Service

by Samantha Weil, Student at Julia Morgan School for Girls

In Julia Morgan School for Girls (JMSG), the goal is to prepare the confident, capable, creative, and compassionate women of tomorrow. In my opinion, JMSG isn’t just doing that, they are excelling at it. Not only are there classes where we learn, and create new skills to develop our minds for the future, but also there are many extracurricular activities in the mornings to go to. There are extracurriculars such as Band, Philanthropy Club, Math Club, and also Girls in Government, Leadership, and Service (GGLS).

GGLS is an incredible example of what JMSG wants their girls to be like in the real world. In Girls in Government, Leadership, and Service, we learn how to be activists. We talk about the meaning of activism, learn about women, and organize events to support feminism.

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Q&A with Marta Mendoza

Interview with Marta Mendoza, freshman at Immaculate Conception High School, about her experiences at AAUWSF's Tech Trek Science Camp

What was the Tech Trek Science Camp like?

“I was at Tech Trek's Camp Marie Curie at Stanford. They basically gave you a whole week to learn all the different types of science and math. We got to stay in the dorms and took challenging classes, including a robotics class where we had to figure out how to build and maneuver a Lego Mindstorm Mini Golf, which I’ve never done before. My favorite part was when, one of the nights, we heard from many women talking about their jobs and all the things women can do. That stuck with me because all these different women tried and they’re now at this point where they have a professional job and they’re good.”

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The Duck Syndrome (Anxiety and Perfectionism Among Young)

by Carol Langlois, Teen Advocate: Youth, Culture & Self-Esteem Expert at Dr. Carol

Recently, I learned about the duck syndrome from a friend of mine at Stanford University. The duck syndrome is apparently running rampant at many colleges (and from my research) at many high schools as well. What is the duck syndrome? Well, think of the duck gliding along the water. She looks very serene, calm and pleasant. Then, look under the water and s/he is paddling frantically. That is the duck syndrome. Too many students on the outside are appearing calm, cool and collected while on the inside they are completely stressed out. As women, we want to see ourselves being able to have it all. To be the great student, great athlete, and well-liked by her peers, which typically means being social. But what price do we pay? Proving we can do it all has transformed into an ugly state of unattainable expectations and extremes, which are unhealthy for any girl of any age. It’s a recipe for disaster that goes against what feminism truly stands for.

I believe high school is where this syndrome starts to formulate. Many of the girls that suffer from the duck syndrome in college were probably “big fish in small pond” at their high school. Most teens want to be popular, and to be popular these days means that you can do it all. I see high school students staying up ridiculously late doing homework, always wanting the A, playing on one if not two sports teams, and also expecting to go out every weekend. All this can lead to anxiety, depression, and unhealthy habits. When they get to college, which could have 12 to 20,000 students, being big fish is not so easy anymore so the stakes get higher.

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From Body Hatred to Self-Love

by Connie Sobczak, Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Body Positive, originally published in Media Planet

At age 19, I was forced to drop out of college by a life-threatening eating disorder, dashing my plans to become a computer engineer. Thankfully, I conquered bulimia and graduated from college. My sister Stephanie was not so lucky. Her obsession with thinness led to her death in her mid-30s, leaving two young children without a mother and our family shattered and grieving.

A Dangerous Path

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Gender Equity in School & Community Sports

by Molly Frandsen, Law Clerk at Legal Aid Society - Employment Law Center

Over the past summer, I worked with Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center’s ("LAS-ELC”) Fair Play for Girls In Sports project, and created an informational video on girls’ rights to gender equity in school and community sports.  This video project was generously supported by the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles (“WLALA”).

Fair Play for Girls in Sports works to ensure girls in grades K-12, particularly girls of color and those in low-income areas, have equal opportunities to participate in school and community sports and reap the lifelong rewards of athletic involvement. Studies show that girls who participate in sports maintain higher confidence and self-esteem. They receive better grades and are significantly more likely to graduate compared with girls who do not play sports. Once in the workforce, on average, girls who participate in athletics in high school earn 7% more. The opportunity to participate in athletics is thus critically important to a girl’s future economic success.

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Kid Report: Bay Area Girls Rock Camp

by Victoria, an 11-year-old camper at Bay Area Girls Rock Camp, republished from

Bay Area Girls Rock Camp is a fun place! It’s an all-girls space where we can go to learn to play instruments, create a band, make new friends, experience fun workshops, and perform at a showcase at the end of the program.

There are two programs in Bay Area Girls Rock Camp.

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Q&A with Liana Thomason

by Liana Thomason, Founder of Berkeley High's BHS Stop Harassing club & Speaker at Alliance for Girls' 3rd Annual Conference

How did you prepare for your GirlTalk?

I worked with [Alliance for Girls Director] Emma Mayerson to perfect my GirlTalk. I prepared a speech about founding and working with BHS Stop Harassing -- what we did, what was easy, what was hard, what it meant to me to do activist work. Emma and I reviewed the speech, cutting out unnecessary parts and creating a slideshow to accompany it. I also met with a voice coach shortly before the conference, to practice the speech out loud."

How was your experience giving the speech?

I had so much fun giving the speech! This was my first big public speaking engagement -- and I found out that I love public speaking! I loved connecting with the audience members and eliciting a response from them. The experience was amazing, and I am so excited to give another speech, whenever that may be.

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Q&A with Ana Diosdado

by Ana Nicole diosdado Gonzalez, Activist, Mission Girl, & Speaker at Alliance for Girls' 3rd Annual Conference

How did you prepare for your GirlTalk?

This experience was new and exciting for me. I had done public speaking in the past but not at this level. The preparation was challenging and a lot of work, but I had a lot of fun. I had to really put a lot of thought into what I was writing and how I wanted to tell my story. I learned a lot from my mentor and I acquired new writing and public speaking skills. Everything that made it in my speech came from the bottom of my heart.

How was your experience giving the speech?

Giving the speech was nerve-racking! When I stood at the podium in front of all those women, I felt like I was in a do-or-die situation -- no turning back now! I spoke with confidence, and even though I stumbled through a few words, my message came across clearly. In the end, it was an amazing experience to be able to share my story to this room full of loving women.

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A Mountain of Connection

by Kelli Finley, Development Director at One Circle Foundation

On June 25th and 26th, 52 incredible people gathered in San Pablo, California for our 2 day Girls Circle Facilitator Training. Many Alliance members or connections were in attendance along with many other dedicated folks working or raising girls in a variety of capacities around the Bay Area and beyond. Over the last 15 months, since I started at One Circle Foundation, certainly one of my favorite parts of the job is catching the last part of the trainings. On the 2nd day, everyone gathers in to small groups, and experiences circle for themselves.

I walked into the room in the afternoon on that second day and people were in every pocket of the room. Circles of five along every wall possible, double doors opening to the outside where folks were gathered in circle in the courtyard. Little pockets of the room, in the very corners, had previous strangers now gathered in circle, sharing from their hearts. The buzz was palpable and my heart was full of joy. As each person in the circle led the designated activity, it was easy to observe the concentration, the respect, the focus, the sharing.

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The "Crowding Out" Effect

by Michelle Wong, Alumna of Lowell High School and of AAUWSF's Tech Trek Science Camp

As my AP Physics C teacher begins to explain a problem, the classroom of six female students and twenty ­three male students is attentively listening.

A mistake!

I had noticed that my teacher had skipped a line of work on the whiteboard. I thought to myself, did anyone else catch that? I looked around the room. Why hasn’t anyone else spoken up?

I kept asking myself these questions until one of my male classmates, who is a particularly frequent participant in the class, raised his hand and pointed out the mistake I had noticed before.

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Title IX: A Perspective

by Keasara "Kiki" Williams of Equal Rights Advocates, reposted from her original post

Today is the 43rd anniversary of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a federal law that has opened up more doors for me than I ever could have imagined.  Title IX gave me the opportunity to start playing sports at a young age and all the way through college, providing me with invaluable opportunities and experiences that have shaped the woman and advocate I have become, as it has for countless other girls and young women.  And now, Title IX has become the focus of my work at Equal Rights Advocates, where my passion for working with young female students has been reignited and fuels all the exciting work we are doing to achieve the gender equity goals set by Title IX more than 40 years ago.

I have been particularly inspired by our work with BHS Stop Harassing, a student group from Berkeley High School that formed after multiple complaints of gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual assault were inappropriately handled by Berkeley Unified School District.  By coming together and taking a stand, BHS Stop Harassing succeeded in getting the district to change its harassment and discrimination policies, all while spreading the word about Title IX through teach-ins with their fellow students. Check out this moving film about their valiant efforts!

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Practicing Self-Love

by Sara Cerami, Senior at Berkeley High School & President of the school's Body Positive Club

In high school, the pressure to fit in intertwines with stigmatization, creating an experience of body shame and guilt for far too many students. Unfortunately, many do not escape the anxiety and feelings of inadequacy created by our culture’s narrow perception of beauty. High school serves to amplify this cultural toxicity. Judgment and constant comparison permeate my high school’s atmosphere, making it difficult to see and declare one’s authentic beauty. I experienced this type of judgment and internalized it, which led to body hatred and self-deprecation.

However, I thankfully found The Body Positive and learned that it was possible to be free to love myself holistically; in a way where I no longer needed to try to fit a malleable, ever-changing beauty standard. My confidence grew and I started being authentically myself without shame. Learning about intuitive self-care made me recognize how important it is to treat myself kindly and with care in order to be able to accomplish all that is possible in my life. I am a strong feminist, and I realized that if I could not respect my own body and mind, I could never help other women find empowerment. This awareness motivated me to create a foundation of self-love, and to reach out to those who have not yet developed theirs.

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The Everlasting Bond of Sisterhood

by Betty Wu, Senior at Holy Names High School

As an international student hailing from the distant country of China, I feel extremely fortunate and blessed to be a member of Holy Names High School -- an inspiring and encouraging environment for young women. In my three years’ journey at HNHS, I’ve seen my teachers’ dedication to teaching, my classmates’ commitment to learning, and I’ve also experienced the Holy Names community’s welcoming and supportive atmosphere.

Even as a young girl, my mother always taught me the value of independence and intelligence for women. As a successful businesswoman herself, I have witnessed her fearlessness and perseverance in operating her business. As a mother, she raised me to have courage to enter male-dominated fields, such as business and science. Although she never received a higher education beyond secondary school due to family and social poverty when she grew up, she understands deeply the power of knowledge and highly values my education as a female. Throughout my growth, my parents seized every opportunity for me to gain a better education. Going to an all-girl school was a novel idea for me three years ago, but now I cherish my time at Holy Names High School.

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The UN Commission on the Status of Women 59th Session

by Lenka Belkova of the Women's Intercultural Network

My second trip as an NGO delegate of Women’s Intercultural Network to the fifty-ninth session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women was once again an unforgettable opportunity to reflect on the importance of moving gender equality forward by bringing the global to the local.

The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UN CSW) meets in New York annually to discuss the progress and ongoing challenges in achieving gender equality worldwide. At last year's session, UN CSW assessed the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, a strategic commitment to eradicate extreme poverty. This year, the UN CSW 59th session carried out the 20th review of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action as adopted during the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing, 1995. To this day, it is the boldest and most comprehensive policy framework for advancing women’s rights. The Platform for Action addresses twelve critical areas of concern for women and girls: women and poverty, education, health, violence against women, women and armed conflict, economic justice, women in decision-making, institutional mechanisms, human rights of women, media, environment, and the girl-child. The implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was a major turn for women by recognizing them as important players in local and global political decision-making processes.

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Front & Center: Bringing Marginalized Girls into Focus in STEM

by Kathleen Thurmond of Kathleen Thurmond LLC

On January 15th, I had the pleasure of representing Alliance for Girls at the White House conference, “Front and Center: Bringing Marginalized Girls into Focus in STEM and Career and Technical Education (CTE).” The White House Domestic Policy Council, Council on Women and Girls, The Department of Education and the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality convened to discuss challenges and possible solutions to increasing the number of girls both entering STEM (science, technology, education, and math) curriculum and remaining in the field.

The conference kicked off by presenting the current realities that many of us know all too well: girls are struggling to get into and stay in STEM curriculum while girls of color are faced with even greater challenges. Sixty percent of young women who enter STEM curriculum leave before graduation to enter alternative fields, and those who stay only last an average of three years before getting out. When young women enter the tech world, they are often discouraged by the unwelcome culture dominated by white males and the lack of female role models and mentors. As a result, young women exit technology-related jobs and the tech sector loses the positive impact these young women would have lent.

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Why do girls apologize for everything? Stop saying you're sorry!

by Carol Langlois of Dr. Carol

When a person says they are sorry, they are telling someone that they are remorseful. The message sent is that they feel badly for what they have done. The word sorry isn’t hard to say for many people, but for some people, mainly young women, they seem to say sorry way too often. The big question is: Why do young girls feel it is necessary to say sorry for things that don’t require an apology?

Generally speaking, girls are typically more apologetic than boys, but it doesn’t mean they are any more remorseful. Girls seem to give out apologies within the broader context of a conversation, where boys typically do not. There is also a cultural expectation that girls will be more accommodating than boys, and sadly many girls live up to that expectation. Overtime, apologies become repetitive, habit-forming and expected by others. Girls can lose sight of why they are even apologizing.

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Highlighting Historic Role Models

by Catherine Baxter of Techbridge, reposted from her original post

For my role managing social media, I was really excited to write a dual story on Black History Month and Engineers Week, celebrating black female engineers whose careers and stories are inspiring to us here at Techbridge. But I have to be honest. Not only was finding women engineers of historical significance difficult, but finding women engineers of color was particularly difficult. This assignment was a stark reminder to me about why the work we do at Techbridge is imperative – to help create opportunities for women and girls of color to become engineers and be featured on lists like this one day!

The challenge I encountered while researching for this blog post was confirmed with statistics: the numbers of prominent black engineers and scientists are staggeringly low. Today, only 2 percent of African American women are represented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, while women in total make up 24 percent of the STEM workforce. These low numbers do not reflect the ability of black women in STEM, but instead represent industries that have been historically exclusive and hostile to women of color especially. We have so much respect for the women who have broken down barriers and became (or are becoming) the first in their field to reach a new height. They are the examples for girls of the next generation.

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