Blog Archives

Sheryl Sandberg Helps Women “Lean In”

Sheryl Sandberg

Guest Post by Marketing Intern, Molly Decker

It is essential for girls growing up today to have competent, caring, strong women to look up to and model themselves after. But for those girls interested in taking the business world by storm, we find ourselves with few women running the show, and even fewer who get recognized for their hard work in mainstream media. With all the women we have in our families, in our workplaces and schools, and in our day to day lives who do great things, we have to wonder why the representation of women in high-power positions is still so small. Where are our women leaders?

An article in last week’s New York Times suggests that Sheryl Sandberg, current Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, might have an answer.

Facebook is a social media company well-known and loved by just about anyone who’s over 13 and has access to a computer. With all the daily attention Facebook gets simply by being an open tab in most internet browsers for “study breaks”, and with the Facebook movie, The Social Network, showcasing of Mark Zuckerberg’s determination and sheer genius, one wonders why few know that the person right behind Zuckerberg in the chain of command is a strong, independent woman.

The article discusses Sandberg’s book, Lean In, which is due to be published later in 2013. In the book, she writes that while “chauvinism and corporate obstacles” definitely present an issue for women taking charge in the business market, women are too often socially conditioned to settle for what is given and in doing so, effectively hold themselves back.

Sandberg says, “We internalize the negative messages we get throughout our lives, the messages that say it’s wrong to be outspoken, aggressive, more powerful than men. We lower our own expectations of what we can achieve.”

This is something young girls can take to heart instead of the “negative messages”: just like having an emotion is not only for females, having a strong opinion is not only for males. We should use our strong voices and stand by our beliefs when we see changes that need to be made. We must share our ideas in group projects and in meetings. We need to let ourselves be heard.

ForbesWoman did a study in 2012 of America’s top 500 companies, and found that “there are now 20 female CEOs…[and] that paltry number (4%) is actually a record.” Why is that, when we are capable of achieving more? As women, if we continue to dream small or let the negatives messages affect us, we may never see a world where there are just as many women working as CEOs as there are men. So, we can’t be afraid of dreaming big. And more importantly, we must be assertive, and let ourselves turn those dreams into a reality.

What can you do to be more assertive? How can you support your friends when they speak up? What can you do to promote positive change in the way girls approach business? Leave a comment below.

Boston’s College Students: A Resource to Organizations

One of Boston’s biggest assets is its variety of higher education opportunities, which attract thousands of students from all over the world. There are 52 institutions of higher education here, with the enrollment ranging from 100 students to more than 30,000. This surplus of smart, talented, ambitious young people is not only beneficial in making Boston a hub of innovation, it is also a significant resource to organizations like Big Sister Association. 

On February 1, Linda Matchan wrote an article for the Boston Globe entitled “Volunteering Spirit Catches Fire” (read here). The article is an account of the rise in volunteerism among Millennials (people under 30) in the Boston area. According to the Globe article:

“Where their boomer parents may have been inclined to put their idealism and energy into protest and rebellion, today’s young men and women are civic-minded, less determined to change the social order, and more inclined to make the world a better place…” 

Among our Big Sister volunteers, women under 25 account for approximately 35%. That number has stayed fairly constant over the past few years, and is proportionately in line with the population of the City, which is said to rise 1/3 during the school months.

These students clearly have an intense desire to volunteer, but may need opportunities that require flexibility around class schedules and school vacations. Many college women in our area take advantage of Big Sister’s more flexible volunteer opportunities, which fit with their lifestyle and allow them to have a big impact on a girl.

Our School-Based Mentoring program matches a Big Sister in a one-to-one mentoring relationship with a Little Sister at the girl’s elementary school. This is a great opportunity for college students (and even corporate women working in the city) to spend time with a girl right in her own backyard during her lunch break.  These Big and Little Sisters meet during the Little Sister’s lunch time throughout the academic year, and are encouraged to keep in touch via letters or e-mails over the summer months. For more information on our School-Based Mentoring, or to apply, visit http://www.bigsister.org/

We also offer a monthly volunteer opportunity that will fit even the busiest student’s schedule.  Big for a Day (BFAD) allows girls on our waiting list (more than 300!) to participate in Big Sister-sponsored events interact with women mentors while they wait to be match with their own Big Sister. Activities range from dance and yoga classes, to ice skating, crafting, or museum visits. To volunteer as a Big for a Day women must be at least 20 years old and complete a one-hour screening process. The BFAD events are one Saturday each month, take place during the day, and usually last for 2-4 hours. If you are interested in volunteering or hosting a BFAD please contact Jennifer at jgentile@bigsister.com. We are thrilled to have so many wonderful Bigs and the prospect for even more talented mentors for our Little Sisters!

“How lovely to think that no one need wait a moment, we can start now, start slowly changing the world.  How lovely that everyone, great and small, can make their contribution…how we can always, always give something, even if it is only kindness” – Anne Frank

Invest in Girls

Illustration by Gerard Dubois for TIME

Illustration by Gerard Dubois for TIME

The benefits are so obvious, you have to wonder why we haven’t paid attention. Less than 2¢ of every development dollar goes to girls — and that is a victory compared with a few years ago, when it was more like half a cent. Roughly 9 of 10 youth programs are aimed at boys. One reason for this is that when it comes to lifting up girls, we don’t know as much about how to do it. We have to start by listening to girls, which much of the world is not culturally disposed to do.—To Fight Poverty, Invest in Girls by Nancy Gibbs, Time, Feb. 14, 2011

According to the article from which that quote was taken, fewer than 1 in 5 girls make it to secondary school in sub-Saharan Africa. Nearly half are married by the time they are 18; 1 in 7 girls across the developing world marry before they are 15 and get pregnant shortly thereafter. The leading cause of death for girls 15 to 19 worldwide is not accident or violence or disease; it is complications from pregnancy. Girls under 15 are up to five times more likely to die while having children than women in their 20s. Their babies are more likely to die as well.

At Big Sister, we know that investing in girls locally is just as crucial as investing in them globally. Consider this: In 2008, 595 children were born to teenage mothers between the ages of 15 and 19 in Massachusetts, according to a study by The Alan Guttmacher Institute, as reported by the Mass Alliance on Teen Pregnancy. Big Sister has been “lifting up” girls since 1951. We encourage girls to live up to their full potential by providing them with strong female mentors. These are women who most often are simply there to listen; the point at which Gibbs urges us to begin.

There is no doubt that whether it is in Malawi or right here in Boston, we need to increase the investment made in girls. That investment is one of time, of money, and of open ears, hearts, and minds when it comes to addressing the specific needs of girls. We can also encourage girls to invest in each other. That is the mission of Girl Up, a campaign of the United Nations Foundation that Gibbs references in her article. If you are a Big Sister, we encourage you to visit http://www.girlup.org/with your Little Sister. Perhaps it will spark a conversation about girls supporting girls locally and globally…and get others to start talking about what it really means to invest in girls.

To read Time Magazine’s number one most emailed article, “To Fight Poverty, Invest in Girls” click here.

“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.”

– Margaret Mead

For more information on how to become a Big Sister, apply on our website at http://www.bigsister.org or call 617.236.8060.

Big Sister goes back to school!

Have you ever thought about becoming a Big Sister, but didn’t think you had the time to make the commitment?  Did you know that Big Sister Association offers the opportunity to volunteer on your lunch break during the week?  Our School-Based Mentoring program offers the opportunity for women with busy schedules to mentor a girl at various Boston schools near where they work.  Now that schools are back in session, we’re looking for more women to become School-Based Big Sisters!

Instead of eating lunch at your desk or grabbing a quick bite from the fast food place around the corner, you could spend 45 minutes to an hour, one day a week throughout the school year, making a difference in the life of an elementary school age girl.  School-Based Big and Little Sisters meet at the girl’s school during her lunch time and do everything from playing board games and reading books, to arts and crafts, shooting hoops, or just talking about what’s going on in the Little Sister’s life.

It may seem simple, but the impact that your attention, support, and consistency have on your Little Sister is big.  “I think the Big Sister program is great for the girls in my room…I know all the girls really look forward to the days their Big Sisters visit and always come back feeling really great.  It is also important that these girls, who are often shy in class, have a time where they don’t have to hold back or feel nervous, but can be the center of attention,” said Joanna Pfister, a fourth grade teacher at the Hurley Elementary School in the South End. 

Additionally, according to our Program Outcome Evaluations, which are completed by the girl’s teacher:

  • 79% of School-Based Little Sisters demonstrated improved trust toward others
  • 79% of School-Based Little Sisters also showed improved class participation
  • 75% of School-Based Little Sisters showed an improved ability to use school resources

According to a study published in March 2009 by Dr. Jean Rhodes of UMass Boston, which examines the impact of mentoring with regard to gender, girls who have a School-Based Big Sister show greater academic gains.  Girls with School-Based Big Sisters also demonstrate improved peer relationships and lower stress levels (The Role of Gender in Mentoring: A Three-Part Study, Rhodes and Litchfield, March 2009).

Now is the time to make a difference. Big Sister offers our School-Based Mentoring program at schools right near your office!  If you are interested in learning more about becoming a School-Based Big Sister, click here.