On a chilly day in February, 7 young girls showed up at our agency with lumber and power tools. They were there to build us a room divider. When someone comes over to build you something, you expect them to be 1. male 2. an adult 3. maybe kinda stinky (in a good, hard working kinda way). These girls were 1. female 2. not adults and 3. totally adorable. They had participated in a Girls at Work after school program with the Manchester School District. After their 8 week session ended, they wanted to keep building, so Elaine Hamel, the E.D. of Girls at Work, had an idea for them build an awesome project for our office.
Once they arrived, it didn’t take long for them to get to work. Using nail guns (nail guns!), they had pre-built the panels at the Girls at Work headquarters down the road, and when they got to our office they laid them out of the floor. We watched in awe as these powerful little girls started powering up their tools. They used clamps to hold the panels in place and used power drills to screw them together. I was absolutely blown away by how skilled these girls were with the power tools. I have built with Elaine once, and let me tell you, it’s not easy to drill a screw into a board. These young girls have already broken through whatever barriers they had to in order to become comfortable with woodworking, and it’s a beautiful thing to see.
By teaching girls to build, Girls at Work is doing more than just telling them that they are capable of anything, but showing them too. In the United States, 58% of college graduates are women, yet women make up only 4.6% of S&P 500 CEOs, and 24% of workers in STEM fields. Men still hold the majority of high paying jobs, and there is still a 23% gender pay gap.
Girls at Work, Inc. isn’t trying to turn all these girls into carpenters and woodworkers (although it would be cool if a few of them turned out to be), but they are using woodworking as a vehicle to show these girls that just because they haven’t seen many women in these professions, that doesn’t mean they are not capable pursuing them. At the same time, they are also showing the world around us what these girls are capable of. A parent might get a little scared to see their daughter operating machinery simply because they have never seen a girl with a power tool. Showing these images to people can help to start changing minds on gender stereotypes, and open up opportunities for girls and women to pursue careers that aren’t traditionally seen as female.
At Schall Creative, we now have this incredible piece of furniture to show off to our friends and clients. It is probably the coolest thing in our office, and it is already inviting people to ask about it. When we tell the inquisitor that it was built by girls, their amazement increases ten-fold. So, a heartfelt THANK YOU to Elaine Hamel, Girls at Work, and the incredible girls who built it. You guys rock!
To learn more about Girls at Work, visit their website.