Instead of serving up white wine or Arnold Palmers, perhaps event planners should have been offering Benadryl and Puffs. With the temperatures feeling quite at home in the 90s. Sniffles and red noses were bad enough thanks to the seasonal allergies. But the demands of Wednesday, October 14, forced the nonprofit supporters to leave their ills at home and raise funds.
It all started off with the immediately collision of the Center for BrainHealth team holding their Institute for Brain Performance groundbreaking at the same time as the reception for the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas’s Women of Distinction Luncheon at the Hilton Anatole’s Chantilly Ballroom for nearly a thousand.
The choices were definitely a challenge. But former First Lady Laura Bush and daughter Jenna Bush Hager opted for the Anatole event joining Gene Jones, Nancy Dedman and Ruth Altshuler tableside.
Just a couple of tables away, Luncheon Chair Katherine Coker joined Women of Distinction Awardee Jan Rees-Jones and her husband Trevor Rees-Jones and Young Women of Distinction Awardees Devin Bray and Sruthi Tummala.
Another highlight of the luncheon for Katherine was having both her mom Beth McHaney and 10-year-old daughter Olivia Coker on hand. BTW, Katherine is a third-generation Girl Scout and Olivia is already on board to make it a four-generation Girl Scout family.
Nearby were presenting sponsor AT&T’s Holly Reed, Erle Nye, Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas COO Carri Baker Wells, Garrett Boone, and Sally Hoglund.
To get the program started, girls representing various stages of the scouts lined up on the stage and with mic in hand each told how Girl Scouts had impacted them. Then emcee Clarice Tinsley introduced Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas CEO Jennifer Bartkowski, who let the guests know that today’s scouts are still selling cookies and camping, but they are also charging into the high-tech STEM world. Proudly she spoke of the October 16th groundbreaking of the STEM Center of Excellence at Camp Whispering Cedars in South Dallas with renderings being shown on the mammoth screens on both sides of the stage. The $13M living laboratory will allow girls “in kindergarten through 12th grade to explore science, technology, engineering and math programs, activities and careers.”
Phase One of the Center including The Rees-Jones Foundation Welcome Center and The Hoglund Foundation Girl Program Center is scheduled to open in spring 2016.
Then it was time for the presentation of the awards by Jennifer and Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas Board of Directors Chair Kit Addleman. Both Devin and Sruthi gave incredibly articulate acceptance speeches that more than impressed Girl Scouts alumnae and the suits in the crowd.
Philanthropist Jan R-J was then presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award. While she admitted that she was “truly outside my comfort zone” being at the podium, she felt her message was important to tell. When she first visited Camp Whispering Cedars, she thought, “This place needs a makeover. We knew then that we wanted to get involved. It’s not so much about how it looks on the outside, as much as it is about what goes on inside.” She continued saying that the Girl Scout model of leadership and character had convinced the R-J family to invest in the project and “We have never looked back since.”
Next up was Anna Michele Bobadilla who received the Women of Distinction Award. Unfortunately, Anna’s co-recipient Tincy Miller was unable to attend the luncheon due to being under the weather. In her place was her son Greg Miller, who ended up being the only fella on the stage during the event.
Following the awards presentation, AT&T Services Inc. General Attorney Cynthia Malone introduced keynote speaker Reshma Saujani, founder/CEO of Girls Who Code and author of “Women Who Don’t Wait In Line.”
Her selection as speaker was right on target with the day’s theme of girls embracing the world of technology. In addition to giving a tip of the hat to Devin and Sruthi, Reshma provided fuel to the flame that gals cannot only study computer sciences, they can excel.
The 39-year-old Yale Law School grad admitted that she did not know how to code and she had lost two elections for public office. But she followed that up saying her failed runs for office had resulted in her developing and growing Girls Who Code “to inspire, educate, and equip girls with the computing skills to pursue 21st century opportunities.”
Since beginning in 2012, Girls Who Code has involved more than 3,860 girls in 29 states. Her goal is to raise that number to 1.15M by 2020.
According to Reshma, 37% of all computer science graduates were women back in 1984. Today that number is only 18% despite the fact that women in STEM jobs earn 33% more than non-STEM females.
Reshma told of two Girls Who Code [Andrea Gonzales and Sophie Houser], who created a game called Tampon Run. They wanted to create a game that took the stigma out of menstruation. Not just for themselves and their friends, but for young women throughout the world. In some cultures girls leave school when this natural development begins.
Reshma added that she doubted a boy would have come up with such an idea to fight the taboo.
So, how can people help girls succeed?
- Build a sisterhood like Girls Scouts.
- Expose girls to the opportunities available to them.
- Provide access for role models.
- Recognize that failure can make one more resilient.
In her efforts for “world domination” this year, she said that two keys things are required:
- Pop culture — When the personal computer was introduced in the 80s, it was marketed almost exclusively to boys/men. Girls didn’t have that experience. A programmer myth started that only nerds were involved in high tech. As an example, she said that once “Ally McBeal,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “LA Law” appeared on TV, girls thought, “I want to do that.” So, the pop culture is necessary to attract a new generation of young women to science, technology engineering and medicine.
- The country needs to wake up and incorporate coding in the educational system. Other countries required computer science to graduate. “Time is running out and if we as a national don’t wake up and understand how important it is to build a pipeline of talent, to build the next companies of tomorrow, to find a cure for cancer, we’re gonna miss out. Not only will our girls miss out, but we as Americans are going to miss out.
In conclusion, Reshma emphasized how very huge the STEM Center of Excellence will be for the development of girls.