Changing Lives With Vision and Practicality

If you haven’t heard of Girls Inc., you should have. They’re a national non-profit organization dedicated to empowering the next generation of girls and young women to achieve educational goals, defy stereotypes, and reach their potential. DMN is currently partnering with Girls Inc. New York. We are supporting their May 8 Spring Gala (more details here), and they will be guests at our Marketing Hall of Femme event on May 16. The editorial team had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Pamela Maraldo, CEO of Girls Inc. New York, and pick her brain about the “secret sauce” that transforms the lives of girls across America..

A cursory look at the Girls Inc. website reveals a sweeping, ambitious mission. Teaching women to enforce their personal boundaries; that economic self-sufficiency is possible; and that education can help reach their potential. These are only some of the goals of Girls Inc.

Many, if not most, CEOs spend a lot of time toggling between analyzing bottom lines and managing shareholder expectations. Dr. Maraldo takes a different approach. She speaks unflinchingly about the specific challenges the young women in Girls Inc. face: sexual assault, financial burdens, or a parent on drugs or in prison. Many of these girls could easily remain victims or become another statistic, but Maraldo speaks of them as though they are already accomplished professionals — rare for a leader who serves underprivileged communities. Most company leaders speak of such personal difficulties in  euphemisms. Maraldo faces such realities head on. “They need role models, they need attention, they need someone that cares [about] what they’re doing.” In order to help with this role model is that teachers are of the same background of the girls that exemplify the core principles of Girls, Inc. It makes a huge difference, Maraldo says.

“I used to watch Law and Order: Special Victims’ Unit,” Maraldo told us. “It was always about children and sexual abuse, and it just got to be too much. I said to myself at the time ‘that doesn’t really happen. It’s not realistic, it’s too much.’ And then I started to work at Girls Inc., and I saw very clearly where these Law and Order episodes come from…They’re the kind of stories you only see on television, if you’re a middle-class person.” While trauma may be the reality now, Maraldo is determined that the past should have little to no impact on the future. 100 percent of the girls who complete Girls Inc’s high school curriculum are accepted into college. A shiny statistic, to be sure, but when pushed on the college completion rates, the picture was far more grim. According to Maraldo, only nine percent of college students from low-income communities graduate from college. But Maraldo is undaunted; she’s researching ways to support girls not only to reach college, but stay there and thrive — an initiative receiving financial support from multi-national Macquarie bank.

After nearly a decade holding the reins at Girls Inc, Maraldo’s goals for the organization are crystal clear: she wants a digitized and interactive infrastructure that will attract more members (she’s shooting for 100,000 members in ten years). Her top priorities, among many, are financial literacy, STEM programs, and mind-body health.

Maraldo is making her vision a reality with the help of committed corporate partners. As part of her goal to teach girls about financial literacy. She sourced a donation of $50,000 to actually be invested by girls in the stock market. The rate of return after one year? Fifty-four percent; and the girls were awarded the profit to help pay their way through college.

It takes more than good intentions and enthusiasm to make a positive impact on human lives. It takes good planning and support to build a sustainable model that can reproduce consistent results year after year. The girls who come to Girls Inc. are generally vulnerable, just a few missteps from living a life of hardship. In order to reverse that prospect, Girls Inc is taking tangible steps to build an intangible feeling: hope.

Come and cheer the organization on at our Marketing Hall of Femme event in New York on May 16.

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