How come every time a girl makes a formal speech in front of a crowd, someone has to stand up and make a big joke about it after she is finished?
From Joyce Roché, Former President and CEO, 2000–2010
I came to Girls Inc. after 25 years in the corporate world. For many of those years I was at Avon Products in New York City, where I enjoyed a wonderful career in marketing both in the U.S. and as Vice President of global marketing. After almost 19 years, I left to take on the challenge of being President and Chief Operating Officer of Carson Products in Savannah, where I helped take the company public both in the United States and Johannesburg, South Africa.
Then I made a really enormous decision to take everything I had learned about management and marketing and apply it to a cause I care deeply about. I found Girls Incorporated, and from day one I have known it was the right choice for me. I wake up every morning stronger in my commitment to improve life for the next generations of American women.
Having been on both sides of the great "for-profit/not-for-profit divide," I am struck by my new sense of how an organization like Girls Inc. is viewed by the corporate world. I imagine that some people assume that my joining Girls Inc. is something like retirement. Had I not made this leap across the chasm, I too might have thought that would be the case. I might have thought that the pressures could not possibly be as extreme, the stress level not as high, the challenges not as complex.
I can tell you that is not the case. In every way, this job is as demanding as any I have ever held. In one way it is even more so-and that is because of the degree of my personal investment in the Girls Inc. mission. There is so much at stake in the outcome of what we do. I have begun to understand this on a broad scale to include the work not only of Girls Inc., but also of the hundreds of thousands of not-for-profit organizations whose work makes so many lives better.
Because of my own new awareness, I want to urge that we begin to move toward a new model of the relationship between the for profit and not-for-profit sectors. We need to begin to think of the social sector as absolutely critical to the health of our nation. For too long, too many of us have had a sense that not-for-profit work is a nice thing that some people are involved in, a kind of laid-back, generous hand-holding-kind-of-thing. In this model the business world is primary and the "charities" are the grateful secondary recipients of largesse.
Well, we are grateful, make no mistake about that. But I'm hoping that in the future, corporate generosity can be viewed not as a hand-out, but as a partnership, with each of us taking on different roles, one no less important and no less vital than the other.
This is a shift that we in the not-for-profit world need to make as well. We need to inspire the kind of confidence that comes with knowing our immense value to the communities we serve. We have to prove ourselves worthy as partners, planning and growing and managing brilliantly. And we have to have enough pride to present ourselves and our work as equal in quality and significance to that of the corporate arena.
That is the challenge I see before all of us, and I look forward to having the opportunity to move this agenda forward during my tenure at Girls Inc.
You will see dynamic growth from Girls Inc. over the next few years. The first Girls Inc. television public service announcements (PSAs) aired widely on network and cable TV in 2001. Tell Me, our second round of PSAs, is part of a larger public education initiative to raise awareness about girls' rights. These PSAs put girls front and center, with the goal of connecting adults to the Girls Inc. mission of inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold. Thanks to our generous corporate partners - Lifetime, BET, ABC, ABC Family, Style Network, and US Airways - the TV PSAs have generated more than one billion gross impressions.
These are the most outwardly visible aspects of a comprehensive business plan adopted in January of 2001 by Girls Incorporated. In carrying out this plan, the organization will take a dramatic leap by significantly increasing the number of the girls we reach. There are three facets to this effort: We are investing aggressively in the growth and outreach of Girls Inc. member organizations; we are expanding into new cities in the U.S. and Canada; and we are developing an expanded capacity to give even more girls an experience of Girls Inc. programs online. This is a massive effort to which we are committed at every level of the organization.
I visit a number of Girls Inc. sites each year and leave each center re-charged, inspired, and even more determined to see that every girl who could benefit from these programs has the opportunity to do so. The girls I see at Girls Inc. are confident. They have the ability to engage each other and adults in conversations about complex and important subjects. They are inspired to pursue their dreams.
I watched a group of girls in our science and math program building a model of a flood plain and heard 14-year-old girls discussing the impact of flooding on low lying areas, analyzing its effect on people and the environment. I heard a group of 7-year olds talking about self-esteem and what it means to feel proud of something you've accomplished. I met a 10-year old and saw in her face the dawn of recognition that Girls Inc. is not just a center in her town, but a national organization that affects the world in a big way that she now knows she is part of.
These moments, and what they add up to, matter to all of us and to our future together. Along with the member organizations of Girls Inc. throughout the country and the National Board of Directors and staff, I pledge to bring our vision and our best efforts to this endeavor.
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