by: Mary Hadley
This weekend I attended South by Southwest (SXSW) on behalf of my team. Since joining the organization in the summer of 2017, I have experienced so many amazing opportunities including the chance to visit Austin, TX. I spent most of my time at The Female Quotient Lounge where I heard many different panelists discuss topics regarding women and girls. The panel that stuck with me the most was Investing in Girls to Grow the Next Generation of Leaders as it questioned the original meaning I associated with the word empower. There have been a few times over my past couple of years with MakerGirl that I had used this term to describe our work. Whether that be “we empower girls to be active in STEM fields” or that we are a group that “empowers the girls of the future”. Anna Blue, Co-Executive Director of Girl Up, made a statement about not liking the term “empower” as it means you are giving the power to someone. Girls do not need to be empowered; they already have the power. This statement struck me as I had talked to other team members before about the word and whether it is a strong or weak adjective to describe our work. We do not need to be empowering girls to create, build, or lead the future; we need to continue to show them that they already have that power and give them the opportunities to use it. I think everyone needs to be reminded of this. Many organizations are doing amazing work every day to help girls and women unleash their power in different parts of their lives. We need to show everyone that these organizations are not giving them this power, they are simply allowing a space or giving tools to help use that power.
MakerGirl sessions are one of these opportunities for young girls to use their power and to learn about STEM. We have been exchanging out the term “empower” with “educate” as that is what we are actually doing. We teach young girls about simple CAD design and let them use their power to create their own custom 3D printed object. This weekend not only changed my idea of the term “empower”, but also introduced me to many different women who are using their power in different ways. Hearing from panelists such as Maxine Marcus, founder of The Ambassadors Company which she started in high school, left me in awe that a teenager created her own (very successful) company and is continuing to use her power during her time in college. There were many other amazing women I got to meet, and I am so honored that MakerGirl let me attend SXSW on our behalf. Ladies, how are you using your power?