Register today: Empower Her helps transform today’s Pittsburgh girls into tomorrow’s leaders

Photo above by Mary Taylor.

Empower Her is back and in-person this year. Girls from ages 7-17 are invited to the annual high-energy day that includes a dance party, hands-on STEM activities and other fun.

Timed to and guided by Women’s History Month and the International Women’s Day movement, Empower Her is the Boys and Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania’s (BGCWPA) signature leadership event. The fun takes place on March 26 at the Estelle S. Campbell Boys & Girls Clubhouse in Lawrenceville. Registration is free and includes an Empower Her T-shirt and lunch catered by a woman-owned business.

But more than just an exuberant day to socialize with other girls, the mission behind Empower Her is to help develop the next generation of strong female leaders.

Why is it important to give girls a sense of empowerment?

“We know that at a certain point in time, typically around fourth grade, girls start participating less in class, stop raising their hand as much,” says Jessi Marsh, vice president of advancement and philanthropy of BGCWPA.

One of the ways to combat that effect is to bring young girls together with older girls and women, with whom they can build encouraging relationships, she says. Having positive experiences with other women and hearing encouraging, inspirational stories from the speakers at Empower Her helps girls become more comfortable and confident in themselves. And that confidence can make them more willing to try something new.

The lineup of women speakers includes City of Pittsburgh Councilwoman Erika Strassburger, who will present a proclamation that officially declares March 26 as “Empower Her Day.” Allegheny County’s State Rep. Emily Kinkead will also take part as a speaker.

Photo courtesy of Boys and Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania.

A DJ will start off the day with dynamic hype music to get kids on their feet and energized for the activities ahead. The girls then will be gathered into groups, so that their activities will be age-appropriate. And these groups have creative names: Rather than being in, say the red group or purple group, they might be placed in the Harriet Tubman group, the Maya Angelou or Amelia Earhart group.

“We wanted to name the groups after women who have done amazing things,” Marsh says.

Cool STEM activities like Makey Makey circuit kits will give girls creative ways to enhance skills in science, technology, engineering and math. They’ll explore slime and chemical reactions, podcasting and game design.

Marsh points out that women — particularly women of color — tend to be under-represented in STEM careers.

“Not only do we want to make sure these girls have the opportunity to consider STEM as a possible career, but we also need to be thinking regionally of the workforce for tomorrow,” she says. “We’re going to have a shortage of workers who are prepared to do these jobs. So it is very important that we are exposing children at a young age to all of this and helping them see where they might fit in. Maybe it’s healthcare, maybe it’s artificial intelligence, maybe it’s robotics.”

Photo courtesy of Boys and Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania.

And for those who don’t pursue a career in a STEM field, she says, this type of STEM learning can also help kids develop other important skills.

“It’s working together, it’s teamwork, it’s critical thinking, it’s evaluating information, collecting data,” Marsh says. “That can be important in almost any job.”

Empower Her encompasses so many different aspects of life for girls.

“It’s about health and wellness, healthy relationships, body positivity,” Marsh says. “All of those things are important when it comes to young women finding their voices. The physical side, the emotional side, the mental side – all of that works together. And that’s really what we’re trying to do: Think about empowerment and how do we come at that from every angle and offer a little taste from each of those areas.”

Registration is free and open until the maximum number of 120 girls is reached.