I am Arshele Stevens, Girls Inc. of Chicago’s Chief Executive Officer and I am thrilled to share our first blog post with you!
In June 2017, I excitedly began my journey to inspire girls in Chicago to become strong, smart and bold. My road to becoming CEO of the newest Girls Inc. affiliate has been filled with lots of interesting (clears throat dramatically) professional experiences.
Countless times at registration tables while attending Chief Information Officer conferences in a previous role, rather than be asked for my name (like my male colleagues) I was asked “how may I help you”. Because of the low representation of women (especially women of color) in the CIO role, there was an inherent assumption that I was there to pick up someone else’s registration packet. These microagressions, which over time became slight annoyances, were relatively small in comparison to the new heightened feedback that I received about my direct style of communication from senior leaders, peers, and employees. I needed to save my energy to navigate an environment in which I was treated as if I should not only be grateful to be in the role of CIO but that I should express my gratitude with silence or even more detrimental – unquestioning agreement. The writing on the wall was clear: an outspoken woman was not welcome and the “angry black woman” needed lessons on respect. Ironic, huh?
It is with this king-sized closet full of experiences that I enthusiastically accepted the role as CEO of GIoC. I was thankful for my new sense of purpose and was excited to use my tool bag to set a strategy, build a team, and deliver experiences that would better prepare young girls for the obstacles that would likely surface because of their gender. I was ecstatic that my understandings would also allow me to deploy additional provisions to help the plight of girls of color and girls who live in poverty.
If I could choose a personal trait that has served me well, I would highlight my ability to overcome the fear to ask for help. A woman’s desire to be perfect and omnipotent is truly like kryptonite. We miss out on so many lessons learned that are needed to help us grow. This is no different for our young girls. I’m so humbled that I have friends who encouraged their daughters to participate in Girls Inc. I was singing the praise of one of these young girls to her mother and her mom’s response was:
I really like and appreciate what you are doing. While my daughter is quite social and very comfortable speaking and interacting with others; she is a normal teenager and has insecurities. It has been wonderful to hear how she values the opportunity to talk about this with other teenage girls in a safe space.
It’s feedback like this, especially from a friend who I admire and respect, that keeps me motivated. That is also why we are launching this blog. While there are many facets to our work, one of the most critical is to reinforce our researched-based curriculum with hands and minds on project-based learning experiences infused with a pro-girl emphasis. This blog is our newest activity in this space.
Through this blog, we hope to bring together those from all walks of life who care about the prosperity of girls and women. We want to use this platform to inform, share, commiserate and, dare I say it – vent, about the joys and sorrows, that we as females and those who love and support us, experience.
Our discussion topics will run the gamut. From women in politics to mermaids and ethnicity. Our bloggers will have a diverse perspectives, which we hope will facilitate robust conversations. Won’t you join us in this dialogue?
We kick off our first edition with thoughts from students in our Bold Girls Society – girls from high schools throughout the city. The topic: We are reaching 100 years of a woman’s right to vote, but a woman’s right to choose is still in question. What are your reflections on this?
Sadie Bunting: Honestly, it’s frightening that a woman’s right to her own body is still being questioned. The Fourteenth Amendment protects a citizen’s right to privacy, which, in turn, should shield an individual’s rights from possible threats, but less and less people seem to be protected by the Constitution. I don’t know how one person can justify controlling another human’s life and completely disregarding fundamental human rights without feeling immense guilt. But, the most horrific part of the current situation is that if the roles were reversed, there would have been a widespread uproar and the problem would have been stopped before it even started. 96 years after the Equal Rights Amendment was first proposed, we are still one state away from ratifying it. We cannot advance as humans if we are not all standing on equal footing
Lauren Lynch: I feel as if society is constantly taking steps backwards in terms of progression. I feel as if men do not have a right to say what women do with their bodies because they can never understand the health implications, physical effect and the psychological effect, childbirth gives women. Reproductive care is a part of a women’s freedom and trying to infringe on that freedom will make women less mobile in society.