As a little girl looked up to her mentor at Girls Inc of Greater Miami and said, “I love coming here because I feel like people listen to me,” Virginia Akar, chapter founder, was filled with joy.
“Making sure that girls feel seen, heard and supported is such an underpinning of everything we do,” she said. “ So when one of the girls says that, that’s everything, that means we’re doing something right.”
Founded in 2017, under the name Strong Girls Inc, Girls Inc of Greater Miami chapter helps more than 180 girls from Miami-Dade County ranging from third grade to high school, and beyond.
Girls Inc is a national non-profit organization, with chapters in the U.S. and Canada, that instills in young girls the principles of being educated, financially independent, and how to take on leadership positions, in the hopes of introducing more girls to the workforce.
They work with girls through role modeling and mentorship to help them find their dream career path with the goal of making sure the girls graduate from highschool and lead independent lives, Akar said.
Akar is a firm believer in the mentorship program and invites women in the workforce from all fields to come and speak to the girls, ranging from lawyers to professional athletes, and even those involved with finance.
“Role modeling is laying the foundation for building confidence to believe that you can do it all,” she explains. “If you can’t see yourself in that person, if you can’t envision it, then it’s going to be that much harder to see yourself doing it.”
Through role modeling, they also want to instill in young girls leadership, in hopes of combatting the low national numbers of women in leadership positions in the workplace.
According to a survey done by Lean In in 2022, only one in four women are executive level managers and for every 100 men promoted from an entry level position to manager, 87 women are promoted.
Girls Inc also introduces students to the field of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), encouraging them to consider career paths in the field, boosting their math standardized test scores and confidence in STEM subjects in school.
In terms of women in STEM positions, according to the US Census, the number of women in STEM jobs has increased 19% since 1970.
But, the rise wasn’t as significant for women in the workforce as a whole in the U.S., only rising 10% since 1970, from 38% to 48%.
Though these national numbers are slowly increasing, organizations such as Girls Inc are there to help boost the stats and encourage the presence of girls in all job fields, starting in their communities.
Imani Reynolds, senior marketing analyst for Cox Media, alum of the Central Alabama Girls Inc chapter, joined Girls Inc from age 7 to 14, recounted how the organization helped her find what she wanted to do as a career, and pursue opportunities she didn’t really know she had. .
“They showed me different career paths that were available to me,” she said. “There were thousands of career paths that had not even crossed my mind until Girls Inc presented them to me.”
Alumni from Girls Inc can be found currently working in medicine, psychology, marketing, and in the U.S. Navy.
“All kids are born equal and as they grow up different circumstances affect each child,” Akar said. “But, if we could just get in there and provide the resources, we’re changing lives, creating more equity and a little more justice in the world.”