When we first started building our mom-daughter programs around fields where women remain underrepresented (STEM, entrepreneurship, and politics), our driving force was the idea it would be impactful for girls to see their moms in a new light, as they participated in hands-on activities in these fields, especially if those moms didn’t have any experience in STEM, entrepreneurship or politics.
For example, in our STEM program Build Bridges!, as girls work with their moms to solve engineering challenges, they get to see their moms tinker, problem-solve and iterate. For girls whose moms are not in the STEM fields (and may even have insecurities or low confidence in these areas), this is critical because there are often few opportunities for girls to see their most consistent female role model engaging with STEM. Based on research, we believe that if girls see their moms actively engaging in STEM, they will be more likely themselves to develop STEM confidence.
However, what we have since learned is that something equally important is happening as moms and girls work together, be it at our Build Bridges! program or Make It Count! our entrepreneurship program:
Moms are actually seeing their daughters in a new way.
After our programs, we often hear statements from moms like:
• “I had no idea how _______________ my daughter was” where the blank is filled in with words like creative, tenacious, persistent, or patient.
• "I really walked away with a commitment to ensuring my daughter has the same opportunities to explore STEM. She was so excited to help build a roller coaster and I realized I subconsciously had not been thinking about engineering projects for her nearly as much as I do for my son."
• “[My daughter] is constantly talking about her "business plan" to others. She even used our business plan in her class when they were discussing projects."
• “After the Building Bridges! class my daughter told her teacher all about the inventions she created, and her teacher asked her to help design a STEM project for the class.”
As a result of seeing their daughters outside the daily grind of homework, practices, chores, play dates, etc., moms at our programs are able to discover (perhaps for the first time!) their girls’ interest in STEM or entrepreneurship. Armed with this knowledge after the program’s end, moms can fully embrace their role as a mentor by encouraging their daughters’ further participation in these areas by incorporating STEM-related activities at home and seeking out STEM events in their community.
I found myself thinking about this lesson from our workshops this weekend as I followed the news coverage of Saturday’s student-led March for Our Lives and the brave student activism we have seen in the days and weeks following the Parkland shooting. I have been blown away by the students' organizing, signs, speeches, moments of silence, persistence, resilience and tenacity.
Specifically, I thought about our first Stand Together! program (which we ran in 2017), a leadership program that helps girls and women realize the power of their individual and collective voices, and encourages them to become civically and politically engaged, all the while promoting community activism. One of the goals of the program is for girls to discover the power of using their own voice and how to amplify their collective voices to bring about real change.
We were astounded by the results of Stand Together! -
• 94% of girl participants felt "more confident speaking up about issues that matter to [them]"
• 89% of the girls said they were "more likely to act in [their] community to bring about change on issues that matter to [them]
• 94% of the girls increased their "interest/enthusiasm in civic engagement.”
I left feeling (and still feel) that the potential for Moms as Mentors programs to help girls feel confident enough to take meaningful action to make change is limitless.
But over the past few weeks I have found myself humbled by student-initiated activism.
Across the globe, students, on their own, have used their voices, amplified those of others and taken action to bring about real change. While many have had the support of adults, this activism has come from and been driven by the students themselves.
Like the moms in our programs, I was reminded that sometimes it's the adults (in this case, me) who need the opportunity to see children in a setting that reveals the potential that has been inside them all along. What’s critical for adults is that, after this discovery, they show their support and create more opportunities for their kids to further develop this potential.
That’s why we know the real power of Moms as Mentors’ programs can come after our workshops and why we give out take-home resources to help moms (and other adult role models) be effective mentors in their daily lives and nurture their daughter's confidence in STEM, entrepreneurship and political and civic engagement. (And, that is also why we were pleased that 100% of the moms who participated in our Stand Together! program left feeling more equipped to help their daughters realize the power of their own voices and express their opinions and ideas).
At Moms as Mentors we want to do everything we can to help keep the recent momentum of youth activism going, particularly by girls, whether their passion and involvement be about gun control or other areas of critical importance to their lives. For that reason, we want to share two resources from our Stand Together! program to help your daughter be a changemaker:
Click HERE for Moms as Mentors Changemaker Resource Guide
Click HERE for Moms as Mentors Changemaker Tips
Finally, I want to applaud these students who have used their voices loudly and bravely in the last recent weeks. We’re sorry you need to use them in order to feel safe in your own schools.
But please know:
we hear you,
we support you,
and we are inspired by you.
And we will do everything we can to amplify your voices.
Co-Founder & Executive Director of Moms as Mentors