It’s 2022 yet only 7% of Fortune 1000 CEOs are women. Of the $150 billion in venture capital invested in early-stage companies, women get just 2%. And that number hasn’t changed in decades, despite the success stories of women-led companies.
It’s the goal of Girls With Impact to shift this inequity. “Whether we’re talking about the C-suite or entrepreneurship, there’s a tremendous gender gap in earnings, confidence and leadership roles,” says Girls With Impact Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Openshaw, who previously founded Women’s Financial Network. “It’s time for that to change.”
History of Girls With Impact
Openshaw got the spark for Girls With Impact while at the World Economic Forum in Davos, one of the world’s largest and most important gatherings of CEOs. “All the talk was about women and how important they are to our economy,” she says, “but the question remained why were they dropping out of the corporate talent pipeline?”
From her days in Silicon Valley, Openshaw understood the power of technology and knew it was time to focus on training the next generation of women to lead from the top. “Having been raised by a single mother and working as a motel maid at 14, I had to figure out all by myself how to get to the top,” she says. “I couldn’t help but think how much faster I could’ve gotten there if I had the confidence, training and support.”
Girls With Impact began in 2017 with the idea that every young woman needs to know she deserves to be a leader and to have a seat at the table. “By starting earlier, we’re able to radically change her confidence and her view of what she can achieve,” Openshaw says.
Key programs and pathways
Girls With Impact’s core program is a live, online series led by real business leaders. In the Business & Leadership Academy, students meet remotely twice a week for one hour — and once a week during the normal school year over 10 weeks — with a coach and classmates. Young women move from an idea to a business plan and “graduate” with Shark Tank-like pitch presentation.
Along the way, students learn 11 fundamental skills employers want, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, agility, marketing, finance and tech skills. “They graduate with resume material, a new view of themselves and a host of skills they’ll take into life,” Openshaw says.
As a result, many are getting college scholarships ranging from $20,000 to full rides in several cases. The initial program costs $995,
but full scholarships are available to all Colorado households making up to $75,000; household incomes over that still qualify for a 70% scholarship or just $249 for the academy program.
Once students graduate from the Business & Leadership Academy, they can enter the Pathways Program, which matches graduates with a mentor, many from local companies. Participants are guided down one of three paths: going to college, landing their first job or internship, or launching their business.
Anika Mistry, 17, CEO of MineVR, an aid for those with developmental disabilities, recently posted about her experience: “My confidence went through the roof because of Girls With Impact.”
Why Girls With Impact?
Girls With Impact counts its live online programming among its selling points. “This helps us meet students where they are, removing many barriers for working families or students who don’t have time to travel,” Openshaw explains. “It provides much greater flexibility.”
Rather than a traditional classroom, Girls With Impact is all about training for the real world. “In just 10 weeks (or 5 over summer), our students leave with the language of the workplace,” Openshaw says. “When they’re in an interview and mention that they created a business plan and learned to use tools like a SWOT analysis, they immediately stand out. They have an edge.”
Girls With Impact is also different in that it has always been focused on outcomes. Girls aged 8 to 13 face a 30% drop in confidence that can have long-term effects on their career. “If you don’t see yourself as a leader or lack the confidence to move forward, you will be held back for life,” Openshaw says.
“We want to know — both for us and our funders — that we’ve impacted confidence, career readiness and life success.”
• 85% (of graduates) now see themselves as a leader
• 91% report improved public speaking
• 93% feel more college ready
• 79% improve their tech skills
Colorado Market President for U.S. Bank Andy Aye says, “Even during the pandemic, Girls With Impact has been leading the way, helping women — and women of color especially — with the skills, tools and confidence they need to succeed in the future.”
Ways to get involved
Interested in learning more about Girls With Impact programming or mentoring? There are several ways to get involved.
Register a young woman
Summer scholarships are available for all Colorado women ages 14-24. Students and their families will get a $50 grocery card upon completion of the program. Registration is open now for classes beginning the weeks of July 8 and Aug. 11. girlswithimpact.org/nextgen-denver.
Attend a bootcamp
Free one-day bootcamps for middle and high school students will take place on Saturday, July 30, at Westminster High. Attendees will receive a $10 Starbucks card along with critical life skills. Tell your networks.
Become a mentor
Men and women from across the country are finding that Girls With Impact is a great way to share their skills — and make a huge difference in someone’s life.
Sign on as a corporate partner Your company can directly support Girls With Impact’s work in a specific region, engage their employees as mentors and school ambassadors, create a talent pipeline, and advance diversity and inclusion.
Support through philanthropy. Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, for example, donated $250,000 to advancing young women’s economic and professional lives. Donors can also participate in our Adopt-a-School program, where up to 50 young women can go through the program.
To date, Girls With Impacted has served 10,000 young women. According to Openshaw, that’s just the start. “We’ve really just scratched the surface,” she says. “We want every young woman in Colorado to experience the power of this program.”
Girls With Impact Inc. is a 501(c)(3) organization
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