Empowering Calgary Girls to be Leaders

On International Day of the Girl, Oct. 11, a new leadership program for teen girls is receiving a grant from Status of Women.

The Women’s Centre of Calgary has launched a new leadership program for girls aged 14-17 called Girl Up. The initiative helps girls from diverse backgrounds build confidence and gain leadership skills in a safe and supportive environment.

During the free, weekly program, girls discuss issues affecting their lives and work together to address them through collective projects. The program ends with a leadership retreat and includes snacks, supplies and transit tickets, if needed.

Research shows that as girls approach adolescence, they face higher rates of violence and sexual assault than boys and a sharp decline in confidence. In Grade 6, 36 per cent of girls say they are self-confident, but by Grade 10 this drops to only 14 per cent.

“Women’s equality starts with empowering girls. And their teen years are formative ones, when gender stereotypes can keep girls from taking leadership roles or limit their interest in math and sciences. When we invest in our girls, we invest in Alberta.”

~Stephanie McLean, Minister of Status of Women

Women are under-represented in leadership positions in Canada. Women make up nearly 46 per cent of Alberta’s labour force, but hold less than one-third of management positions.

“We are so appreciative of this grant from Alberta Status of Women. Because of their generous support, we are better able to support girls in high school to build their confidence while strengthening their leadership and activism skills. Hearing the voices of girls is key to building a culture that responds to their needs in equitable ways, and we are honoured to have this support to continue our important work.”

~Susan Gillies, executive director, Women’s Centre of Calgary

The $10,000 grant will help the participating girls build their self-confidence and practise leadership skills. A diverse group of girls helped develop the program.

About Status of Women grants

Status of Women’s first-ever grant program is funding 34 innovative projects by not-for-profit and charitable organizations for a total of $1.5 million in the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Successful projects, such as the Women’s Centre of Calgary’s Girl Up program, increase the number of women in leadership roles. Other funded projects include a conference to mentor women leaders in north-central Alberta and leadership training for Indigenous women in Grande Prairie.