Professional Women’s Network of Berlin Hosts Girls Gearing Up at Zalando
By Elisheva Marcus
Last Fall, the Professional Women’s Network (PWN) of Berlin hosted an event that shifted a traditional top-down approach to education. Normally we might expect sage expertise from a senior leader who speaks from experience, but during this surprising session, young female ambassadors (aged 15-16) from an organization called Girl’s Gearing Up (GGU), offered their perspective about leadership.
In the context of the ‘#MeToo’ movement, it was encouraging to hear young, strong females define for themselves what leadership means. Their message is relatable and the methodology that GGU uses is remarkable; both are worth exploring here. Their insights were well beyond their years, and the lessons were timely.
Meeting at Zalando
Held at Zalando HQ in Berlin during October 2017, this session was the third meetup of the PWN Global Network Berlin chapter. The chapter’s president, Delphine Mousseau, described PNW Berlin as being ‘in its infancy.’ So there’s plenty of time and great reasons to join.
Since PWN is a global network aimed at balancing gender leadership and helping women develop professionally across nations and industries, it was appropriate to host GGU. GGU fosters independence and skill development for young women from many nationalities. Both organizations break hurdles in gender bias, supporting women along their professional and personal paths.
This session explored an important question: how can we change the trajectory of girls’ lives with access to international support, mentorship and leadership?
Co-founders of Girls Gearing Up (GGU), Tina Limbird and Courtney Adams, presented GGU as a place where girls learn, find support, and authentically exchange ideas in a safe space as they practice becoming leaders.
Per the GGU method, the girls led us in a ‘challenge’ involving a group of chairs. We were asked to have one person rearrange 11 chairs to demonstrate 1 chair as the ‘power chair’.
The resultant terminology and concepts on power were fascinating; they showed how much the notion of power morphs to fit your perception. The amount of language associated with power that we reached with this exercise was astounding.
See it to Believe it
GGU founder Tina says you can make a big difference helping girls unlock their potential. Exposure to role models and mentorship increases a girl’s confidence, provides inspiration, and increases the future likelihood of leadership.
Girls benefit from seeing possibilities, and hearing from so-called “power mentors,” where GGU invites artists, politicians, and scientists to tell their stories to the girls.
The GGU approach is based on the concept of a global sisterhood. They encourage diversity, openness, and provide scholarships for refugees from Yemen, Syria, and Ghana. At another Berlin-based GGU workshop at FrauenLoop, women taught girls to code. GGU girls have gone on to write novels and code during hackathons.
Insights from GGU Ambassadors
Here are some insights the girls shared during a panel:
- Future female leadership involves cooperation that expands women’s potential. Examples include Saudi Arabia’s granting women the right to drive.
- GGU exposes girls to new global friends, which boosts confidence and builds personality.
- Advice to others? Take risks. If not, you won’t know the outcome. Talk to new people and make connections.
- Having inspirational mentors radically changes your personal and professional outlook.
- What can current leaders do for their generation? “Reach out to us.” Share your experience with these ambassadors and their peers. Enhance cross-generational communication.
- What’s the biggest hope for the next generation? Break social taboos about basic life things like mental health and periods.
For GGU leaders, the next phase is to prove measurable value of the impact the organization has on young women, and to generate more interactions around their volunteer programs. They want to ensure the longevity and sustainability of their hard work, and be ready to scale up.
PWN also wants to expand attendance and increase membership, encouraging professional women to take part in educational and social events that turn the tables on our thinking. You can sign up here to get involved and stay updated.
You can read more from Elisheva about tech, health, and inclusion on Medium.