Career Girls, a nonprofit organization founded by Linda Calhoun in 1996, is committed to helping girls around the world reach their potential and discover their path to empowerment.
On their website, re-launching today at careergirls.org, over 10,000 videos of more than 500 women role models of diverse backgrounds, ages and careers provide girls with insight, advice and skill-building strategies to advance their careers in STEM fields—all at no cost.
In partnership with Ms., The Career Girls Corner will spotlight just some of the inspiring women sharing their stories on careergirls.com with short interviews. To launch the series, we talked to Career Girls founder and Executive Producer Linda Calhoun—an entrepreneur and activist whose work drove her to the intersections of STEM and social justice.
What led to the inception of Career Girls?
I worked very hard to stay on track academically and was granted a number of scholarship options to attend college, where I studied communications; my career took me to database design consulting for organizations like the United States Agency for International Development. I remember quite vividly being at a meeting as one of a handful of women in the room and the only person of color. I was there because of what I knew—and it was at that moment I knew I had to find ways of getting more women, especially women of color, into rooms like that.
I strongly believe talent is distributed equally—so why then do women CEOs account for only 4.8 percent of the 500 most profitable companies in the United States? Because although talent is distributed equally, opportunity is not. As a young African American woman in the workforce, I believed that every girl around the world should have positive career-professional role models to emulate, as well as the skills and practical knowledge needed to excel. I realized providing each individual girl with a mentor was logistically impossible, so I brainstormed how to have the most outreach to the most girls in the most accessible way—an online video curriculum.
A lot of heavy lifting later and, well, Career Girls was born.
What value do you think Career Girls offers for women and girls?
Career Girls offers opportunity. A girl cannot be what she cannot see, and we provide the visibility of woman role models who have careers that the media and society often don’t put in a girl’s path.
We are founded on the dream that every girl around the world has access to diverse and accomplished women role models—to learn from their experiences and discover their own path to empowerment—and we seek to make an equitable world one day, and that comes from an equitable economy both fiscally and socially.
Research has been done, most recently by Microsoft in Europe, that found more than half, 57 percent, of the young European women that Microsoft surveyed said that having a teacher who encouraged them to pursue STEM would make it more likely for them to follow that career path. We provide those teachers through our diverse collection of accomplished women role models.
How does your team decide which role models to feature in the collection?
We want to close the imagination gap for girls about all the careers one can have based on what they are passionate about and their level of educational attainment. We are STEM-focused, and careers in those areas are in high demand. We work with like-minded organizations to identify role models, as well as taking the initiative on our own to make sure we feature careers that are less well known. Now, our website features video of 500—and counting!—role models in over 11,000 clips.
What do you envision for Career Girls in the future?
I want to see Career Girls continue to expand our global content. With our global audience in mind, we have created a lot of culturally specific content to empower girls around the world with our partner organizations. I also want to see more girls find us and our resources. According to World Possible, 52 percent of the world is offline—so they created a mobile server which contains a clone of our website accessible to anyone with the battery powered mobile hotspot device known as a RACHEL server! We’ll soon also have our content on our Career Girls App; we’re working with alumna from Black Girls Code to program it.
Careergirls.org launched in 2011, and we have over five million page views with a reach of 232 countries. I am excited that the first real wave of girls who have had access to our content are at an age where they are going to college; even if we’ve only inspired one girl to do so, that one girl’s future means the world to me.
More long-term, I think: to continue representing role models with our site and app, and playing some hand to see those gender-in-tech and CEO statistics even out.