The multi-platform digital forum gives a “real world” context to young girls by featuring video clips of diverse female role models sharing career and educational advice.
Linda Calhoun, the executive producer of Career Girls, launched the website and YouTube channel to inspire, educate, and empower girls to learn how to achieve rewarding and interesting professions based on their passions. “When you want to see smart and savvy women sharing their stories and giving the 411 on how it’s done, I want Career Girls to be the first place you go,” Calhoun said.
She says her vision has always been for Career Girls to be an internationally recognized forum where accomplished women not only give back, but also pay it forward so girls can expand their horizons and dream big about their futures.
“Today we often hear ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’,” she said. “I was the first in my family to graduate from college and although I come from very hard working people, none of the women in my family had experience with non-traditional careers.”
Career Girls focuses on young girls aged 10 to 13 and places a heavy emphasis on women working in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields.
“Research done by the American Association of University Women shows that girls and boys had complete parity in those subjects until 4th grade, when girls start to fall behind,” Calhoun said. “Unless they see women working in professions that use math and science, they would be less likely to stay on track academically.”
In fact, according to National Science Foundation research, in 2012 women made up only 13 percent of those working in engineering and only 26 percent working in computer and mathematical sciences.
Still, over the past four years Career Girls has had a steady growth and positive feedback from its viewers. “The biggest challenge we face is getting the type of major funding that will allow us to hire a larger staff and make the type of impact we know we can,” Calhoun said.
“The highs happen every time I read an email from subscribers to our Career Girls YouTube channel, or comments from our social media. When we connect with our audience and know that our content has made a difference in their lives, that’s a high that never gets old.”
Since the site went live in January 2011, it has featured 400 role models and over 7,000 video clips. Career Girls has also collaborated with various organizations, including Black Girls Code and Science Engineering and Math Link.
Vanessa Wyche earned her master’s in bioengineering and has been part of several space shuttle launches at NASA. She is just one of the role models featured on the site.
“I have always felt that it is very important, as a woman, not to allow other people to define who I am and what I am able to do,” Wyche said. “I stay focused on my goals by knowing that in the end I’m responsible for making sure that what I want to achieve is getting done.”
Another trailblazer on the website is award-winning scientist Joya Chandra, who talks about her journey as a scientist for cancer research.“I stay focused on my goals by knowing that in the end I’m responsible.”
“I would tell young girls that if you have a sense of what excites you and have a direction of where you want to go, just because that career path isn’t very obviously laid out doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist,” Chandra said. “Once you know what really gets you excited in life, you can’t go wrong.”
Follow Helena Joseph on Twitter@helena_josep