Recently, we were out with some friends at a pizza place that caters to families on Friday nights. They offer face painting and balloon animals and it was the perfect place for our group that included a number of young kids. Right away, all the kids lined up to get their balloon animals. The first two kids in line were the oldest in the group, two boys, and they immediately came back to the table with some pretty cool balloon swords. Patrick, my 4-year-old, asked for a sword of his own, and soon it was time for Jane, who’s only 2, to get her balloon. The woman leaned down and asked Jane whether she wanted a butterfly or a flower. Jane, not entirely sure how to answer, looked at me.
“She wants a sword,” I told the woman, knowing from experience that if she didn’t get the same thing as Patrick, problems would later ensue.
My friend’s little girl, Emily, arrived a little bit later and immediately went to get her balloon. She came back with a flower and the kids moved on to face painting.
Later that night, as the adults were chatting, the kids decided it was time to play with their balloon swords and Emily quickly discovered that there’s not much you can do with a flower except look at it. She was not happy, and her Mom quickly helped her find the balloon artist so she too, could get a sword.
The balloon artist didn’t mean any harm by offering Emily and Jane flowers instead of swords. She simply assumed that because they were girls, they would prefer them. And kids, especially kids that young, tend to go along with what’s offered to them.
Unfortunately, girls are too often offered less than boys.
This weekend, in Washington, D.C. and across the nation, women will join together to make their voices heard. Some of our staff members are traveling to D.C., and many others will be there in Chicago. It’s a powerful image, one I’m looking forward to seeing, and it reminds me why the work we do is so important.
At Girls in the Game, we teach girls to demand swords, not flowers. We empower them to use their voices and speak up for what they want and what they deserve. We teach them that they can change their lives, and the lives of those around them. We show them that they have power. This weekend, they, and all of us, will see what that power looks like on a much grander scale.
Right now, in 2017, it is more important than ever for Girls in the Game to continue empowering girls to grow as leaders. We have a unique responsibility to not only help girls discover their own voices, but to elevate their voices so that more people are aware that girls are strong and capable of changing the world. Personally, I take that responsibility very seriously. As we enter 2017 with our strategic plan as a guide, we will strive to reach more girls that need us. We’ll seek partners that will allow us to deepen our impact and expand our reach. And we’ll strive to for excellence, not for ourselves but for all of the girls who need Girls in the Game.