It’s the norm for girls to witness men in power reaching success at the expense of women. Young eyes and ears are privy to everything around them, for better or worse. But Cleveland mothers, aunts and female friends are living a different narrative – speaking up, reaching out, leading by example and bringing the girls in their lives along for the ride.
Jordan, a budding entrepreneur with an Etsy shop of digital artwork and YouTube channel featuring animated videos, is already making big plans for her life as a professional artist. She’s had her artwork shipped across the country. She’s also 12.
“I wish I was as fearless as she is at 12,” says Siobhan Sudberry, Jordan’s mother. “She’s very confident in who she is and says often that I inspired her. For her to see the work that I’m doing and also want to be an entrepreneur at such a young age, that means so much.”
In 2014, Sudberry launched her business, the BeFree Project, which inspires women to get unstuck, find purpose and take action through speaking engagements, coaching, monthly meetups, a membership network and more. Little did she know, her most captive audience was right at home.
“I had no idea,” Sudberry says.
Whether chatting up strangers at the library or public pool, encouraging women to check out the BeFree Project, Jordan knows her mom’s business inside and out. But for Siobhan, hearing about it isn’t enough.
“At my monthly events, Jordan helps run the sales table or [sits] in the audience so she can see what I do,” Sudberry says. “To actually see me in action and see the women who are connected to the brand is definitely making an impact on her.”
Fortunately, this isn’t an isolated experience. Opportunities for young girls to engage with female role models are happening all over Cleveland.
Local author Rachele Alpine’s book, You Throw Like a Girl, draws from themes of her childhood when she was unable to play hockey because she was a girl. The experience motivated her to pursue her dreams, regardless of what people thought she could or couldn’t do based on her gender. Thankfully, she’s spreading the word.
“I’ve connected with lots of girls in the area, either through in-person author talks or Skype talks after they read my book,” Alpine says. “At the end of most of my talks, I have them identify something they do ‘like a girl.’ We write them down, share them out, and talk about how proud they should be to do things ‘like a girl.’”
Girls have responded with draw, sing, play soccer, solve math problems and, perhaps most importantly, lead like a girl. This exercise allows them to recognize that being a girl is all about excelling at her own special thing.
Lakewood mother Kris Williams, creator of This Girl’s Tees, attended one of Alpine’s book talks with her two daughters. She was pleased to see other women doing the same. Girls from different neighborhoods, races and backgrounds had the opportunity to connect in a setting surrounded by motivated, dedicated women.
“Both our girls are fortunate to have had exposure to literature and literary events on multiple occasions,” says Williams, adding, “Thinking that they could be an author or that women can succeed in a variety of fields is normal and no big deal.”
Women exposing girls to these kinds of events and interactions encourages community, collaboration and support of one another – something we need now more than ever. Our daily actions, big and small, influence our girls in unexpected ways, even at the WISH Cleveland office.
Pamela Turos, Founder and Managing Partner of Good Cause Creative and WISH Cleveland, was recently pitched to “rent” out her office’s conference room to host a planning meeting. By her 9-year-old daughter. The pitch began with two place settings set up with notebooks, pens, snack and a drink at each seat, followed by three specific reasons for her proposal spelled out on a whiteboard.
“I told her I was impressed,” says Turos of her daughter, Lauren, “and that was when she told me, ‘I’ve seen how you run meetings, Mom.’”
The pitch was successful, and Lauren will be “selling” her “ZuLu” lemonade at an upcoming WISH Cleveland event, #GivingTuesdayCLE. On Nov. 27 (Giving Tuesday), WISH Cleveland, with the support of Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, will organize a citywide day of giving that will benefit 25 nonprofit organizations in the city of Cleveland. One-hundred percent of “ZuLu” sales will be donated to these nonprofits.
“The thing I try to teach more than anything is to always do work you can be proud of and to value people over money and things,” Turos says.
The lemon doesn’t fall too far from the tree.
FEATURE IMAGE: Jordan sells her artwork.