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Girl Power

Columnist: Christina Julian
September, 2018 Issue
Columnist

Christina Julian
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Lately my mornings play out something like this. Twin tots throw Cheerios like confetti and fly off furniture clad in capes and superhero garb, as they shout: “Girl power rules!” The fact that my son screams more loudly than my daughter is an indicator that times are indeed changing—not only in my home, but up and down the valley, as people do their own chants for equality, including at the Women’s Summit Napa Valley, held at Charles Krug winery in August. According to Women Stand Up-St. Helena founder Beth Lincoln, the mission is: “To engage, educate and encourage women to find confidence in their voices and to take action steps to address issues locally and nationally.” Lincoln attended the Women’s March in Napa in 2017 and was so inspired she spearheaded the group to keep the women’s movement flourishing in Napa County. The first meeting drew more than 65 attendees and spanned age groups and genders.

The collective launched a grassroots movement to propel women’s issues by calling, sending postcards, responding to bills put before congress, as well as supporting efforts to eliminate the electoral college. Women Stand Up-St. Helena aligned with the League of Women Voters to establish a presence at St. Helena and Calistoga high schools, to inform and encourage students to register to vote.

Buoyed by ongoing support and interest, plans for a women’s summit began to formulate and a partnership was formed between Women Stand Up-St. Helena and Soroptimist International Calistoga. “The problem was, everyone was fired up with nowhere to go. We decided a summit with speakers, booths and action steps would solve that,” Lincoln said.

The lineup for the day included keynote, Representative Jackie Speier, who addressed women’s rights and the #MeToo movement. Napa County Supervisor Diane Dillon discussed how to effectively advocate for issues at the local, state and national level and offered six key points to effectively champion on behalf of proposed legislation. Delaine Eastin, former Superintendent of Public Schools California, addressed how to empower women through education. Activism Through Art featured playwright Lauren Gunderson’s one-woman play Natural Shocks, which aims to encourage a national campaign of theater activism against gun violence. The final presentation came from Students for Change, a St. Helena High School group, formed after the Parkland shooting. They spoke about activities and events and the on-going mission of taking messages from the summit (and what it stands for) to the next generation of voters.

Q&As followed each talk and attendees visited booths where local interest groups including the League of Women Voters, Napa Valley College, Moms Demand Action, Girls on the Run, Napa Emergency Women’s Services (NEWS), American Association of University Women (AAUW), and the Soroptimist International, equipped participants with action steps to take back to their communities. Women Stan Up-St. Helena continues to advocate for female candidates in California and across the nation.

Tech girls rule

Also, this summer, Girls Who Code, an organization, which arms young girls with the tools and teachings to penetrate the male-dominated tech industry, held its Summer Immersion Program in the Bay Area. The program, in its sixth year, offers 11th and 12th grade girls 300 hours of immersive instruction in technology with mentorship and exposure to top female engineers and entrepreneurs.

The seven-week summer computer science experience is part of the nationwide Immersion Program (in partnership with Adobe, Electronic Arts, Facebook, Ford Motor Company, GoDaddy, Twitter, Sephora and others), which began in New York City in 2012 and spread to 17 cities nationwide. “Girls Who Code is on track to close the gender-gap in entry level tech jobs by 2027,” said Girls Who Code founder and chief executive officer, Reshma Saujani. “Computing jobs are some of the fastest-growing and highest paying in our country, yet girls continue to get left behind. Access to a computer science education can bring women into a thriving innovation economy and give families a real shot at the middle class and give girls the chance to prosper in today’s economy.” Participants in the program gain the fundamentals of computer science, web development and design, robotics and mobile.

This past spring, Girls Who Code had reached 90,000 girls in 50 states. College-aged alumni of Girls Who Code programs are majoring in computer science and related fields at 15 times the national average.

Having grown up in a house where girls were groomed for motherhood and boys for power positions in the workforce, my husband and I have fostered a different environment for our children. Boys can dance and cook in the kitchen, and girls get to don superhero capes and commandeer the computer. Girls Who Code and Students for Change offer great hope for my kids’ future, where anything is possible and gender equality will no longer be “a thing” it will be a given.



 

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