A GENDER-EQUAL WORLD FOR THE BENEFIT OF ALL
Meet four young women who embody the ideals of equality and empowerment!
by Alexis Glick
I am not going to lie — I love badass women! I surround myself with as many of them as I can — empower and support them — and in as many ways as I can, uplift them. I know this next generation will redefine what it means to be a badass woman, and I love that, and can’t wait to see how they will make an impact on society.
Today is International Women’s Day. March is Women’s History Month. Both recognize women’s achievements throughout history, across cultures and nations. For me, it’s an acknowledgement of how far we’ve come and how much further we have to go.
As a Wall Streeter by training, who grew up in a male-dominated business, equality is not just a women’s issue — it’s a business issue. Equality between — and among — genders isn’t just ethically right — it’s essential for economies and communities to thrive. The fact that a gender-equal world is an economically more successful world is common sense; it’s a no-brainer: when you empower women to succeed, everyone benefits.
GENYOUth, the nonprofit I lead, has since our inception a decade ago focused on youth empowerment. It was simple in my mind then — as much as it is now. The badass women of this next generation can do, and will do, far more than me, and I intend to do everything in my power to help them live in a gender-equal world. One of the perks of being a CEO who works with 38 million kids across the country is not only meeting, but getting to know, and then watching so many of these amazing young women grow. For a decade, I have witnessed, and where I can, helped, many of these fearless young women flourish. They have grown up in, and through, our programs, Fuel Up to Play 60 and AdVenture Capital, and have become a tremendous source of encouragement to me, my team and our board, a symbol of the breathtaking potential of women and their leadership in society. That is why I would like you to meet four women who are near and dear to my heart.
As a high school student in New Jersey, Saira took it upon herself to write and receive a grant to replace non-functioning, lead-tainted water fountains with innovative, filtered-water hydration stations. It surprised no one that she was the first recipient of a college scholarship from our global partner, SAP, at GENYOUth’s first gala in support of student programming, or that she later shared a stage with First Lady Michelle Obama at a Partnership for a Healthier America Summit. Currently, Saira is a senior at Rutgers University, and in the interim, has worked as a Marketing Coordinator for TEDx and tutored with a group called Students of Strength. Saira says, “I’ve learned to always challenge the status quo, and that when it comes to uplifting your community, no contribution is too small to matter, and no dream is too big to achieve. I love being a part of something, and being able to proudly say, ‘I helped to make that happen.”
A track-and-field athlete in her hometown of Pueblo, Colorado, Kaylene took the leadership experience she gained as a Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Ambassador and became one of the first grant winners in our AdVenture Capital program. Kaylene’s persistence and passion were evident the day I was first introduced to her when we traveled with four other students to meet Warren Buffett, the “Oracle of Omaha,” at his offices during the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. At just 14, Kaylene already pitched, and won, funding to start a student-led athletic league, predicated on the idea that young people must be trusted to lead. Winning funding for her AdVenture Capital entrepreneurial idea necessitated Kaylene to reach out to, and work with district officials, making a case for structural and procedural change, based on the belief that ALL students should have the opportunity to participate in organized sports. She changed the landscape. Giving a voice to the voiceless. Kaylene studied political science and government at the University of Denver and is currently attending the University of Colorado Law School where she will graduate in 2022. Her aim: a career in social-justice, focused on representing underserved communities and individuals. Kaylene says, “Leadership, though interpreted in many different ways, boils down to being kind, listening to those around you, and being able to change your plans to acclimate to the situation at a moment’s notice.”
Emma, as a 12-year-old Virginia student, participated in the pilot program we created, and that later became our Fuel Up to Play 60 program. Not long after, she ascended to Student Ambassador, Youth Council Member, and much like Kaylene, visited with Warren Buffett as one of the inaugural members of our first AdVenture Capital program class. Emma has stood on the stage with Cabinet members, Governors, and State Legislators. Emma graduated from Virginia Tech, where she received her Graduate Certificate in Local Government Management, and her Master’s Degree in Urban and Regional Planning. Emma’s first job was as the Town Planner of Culpeper, Virginia. She then became a Community Development Specialist with People Incorporated of Virginia where she became exceptionally well-versed in community-development tax credits. In fact, the investment portfolio Emma helps manage has $209 million in funding to help support low-income communities across Appalachia. Emma’s commitment is steadfast in ensuring the healthy future of America’s rural communities. She says, “Whether the change you are implementing is going to affect one billion lives, or just one life, we are all fueled by the same inspiration — making our communities better places. So, as you continue to be change makers and grassroots advocates in your home, remember what inspires you to do what you do. And any change, no matter how small, is going to make someone’s life a little bit better.”
Kayla, from Fort Lauderdale, is a Fuel Up to Play 60 Youth Council Leader, who excels in public speaking. The youngest of the four women featured here, Kayla is a high school student who does not lack for passion, or life experiences. In fact, Kayla was my guest during a recent GENYOUth Board of Directors meeting — comprised of corporate CEOs and presidents, world-renowned leaders in healthcare, NFL executives, and even an Olympic Gold Medalist — all of whom were in awe of Kayla and her plea for the role that youth leaders play in — and out of — the boardroom and in the community. I was so blown away by her poise that I asked her to speak at our annual Gala in front of 500 leaders representing $5 trillion in revenue. She shared her firsthand observations on the impact of school breakfast and why the USDA’s School Breakfast Program was essential. She was flawless. In Miami at Super Bowl LIV, Kayla joined me for a half hour interview with Katie Couric, alongside our partners at Sleep Number. Kayla says, “People do not realize how important it is to not only take care of themselves, but also the world. I have learned the importance of a healthy body and mind, and I want to use the leadership skills I have learned to educate people on how they can better take care of themselves.”
For every Saira, Kaylene, Emma, and Kayla that I meet, and have the privilege of knowing and working with, there are literally a million others just like them, deserving of the same support and opportunities for success that comes with being enabled, encouraged, and celebrated.
I am incredibly proud of these young women who we are so fortunate to help advance and support each and every day, and I am equally proud to be working with partners like Sleep Number, SAP, Alight Solutions, Land O’ Lakes, the NFL, and many others, who recognize, and want to ensure, an equal playing field for ALL young women. They instill much confidence, and symbolize our belief that this next generation will have no shortage of empowered, enabled and highly energetic female achievers who will do things that we never thought possible.
I am not going to lie — I love badass women and those that support them!
Alexis Glick is Chief Executive Officer of GENYOUth, a nonprofit organization dedicated to nurturing child health and wellness through programs presented in partnership with the National Football League and the National Dairy Council. Glick also serves as a frequent contributor to CNN, providing her perspective on global business topics of importance, the financial markets and CEO leadership trends. Glick is a frequent, strategic advisor to CEOs for some of the largest international, blue-chip and Fortune 500 companies on issues relating to media strategy, business development, investor relations and communications and advises professional athletes on social media, branding and public speaking.