Inspirational. Educational. Fun. Amazing. Encouraging. Best Day of My Life. Those were just some of the words that girls in grades K-12 used to describe the third annual #LEADLIKEAGIRL: A Conference for Risk-Takers and Changemakers which took place over two days on Friday, April 5 and Saturday, April 6, 2019. Nearly 2,000 girls in K-12, mentor women, parents and educators streamed onto the Stuart campus for a day of free programming that reflects Stuart's innovative STEM, finance/economics, and leadership development curriculum and programs.
The conference featured three keynote speakers whose messages are aligned with what we do here at Stuart starting at an early age. Dr. Aprille Ericsson, aerospace engineer with NASA Goddard, and Anna Du, Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Finalist for 2018, spoke on Friday evening. Reshma Saujani, CEO of Girls Who Code, opened Saturday's event with Dr. Ericsson returning for the afternoon. Following opening remarks from Head of School Patty Fagin to a packed house, the conference's lead sponsor Walmart introduced Ms. Saujani. Walmart recently announced a $3 million partnership with Girls Who Code to expand that talent pool for tech and offer more summer and college programming in the field. In her talk "Brave, Not Perfect" - the title of her new book - Ms. Saujani addressed the steady decline of women in the tech workforce and attributed it to messages in our culture that it is still a man's world. "We raise girls to be perfect and boys to be brave," said Saujani. "From the time our girls are young, we are wrapping them with bubble wrap while the boys are being urged to be risk-takers." Instead, Saujani urged parents and girls in the room to practice bravery and imperfection and to do something that makes them feel alive. "Just start," was her call to action. In her address to both the Friday and Saturday attendees, Dr. Aprille Ericsson's driving message was that when "different ideas collide, it sparks innovation." She spoke of NASA's secret missions with female astronauts and the Hidden Figures pioneers that paved the way for her accomplishments. Just as Reshma Saujani stressed the importance of giving girls a space and a place learn coding, Dr. Ericsson echoed that sentiment by asking the crowd, "Do you like being able to choose what you do?" She urged girls not to shy away from math and science, as they will cut themselves off from 30% of career opportunities. Dr. Ericsson closed her talk with a call-and-response of her own mantra, "I will persist until I succeed." And finally, when asked what advice she would give girls her age who see a problem they want to fix, Anna Du emphasized the importance of research and thinking outside the box to find a way that hasn't been done before.In between keynotes, guests chose from over 60 workshops, panels and presentations from over 100 guest speakers, and enjoyed "Lunch with an Expert." The conference concluded with a presentation of awards for the young women who gave STEM Talks and presented at the Business Fair. Click here for the list of winners for both. Recordings of all keynote and featured speaker sessions will be available shortly. Many thanks to everyone in the Stuart community, including all of our alumnae guest speakers, who welcomed hundreds and hundreds of guests to our wonderful campus and showed them what it's really like to #LEADLIKEAGIRL! Some of our photos from this incredible day are already uploaded in our photo gallery, and check back for more photos soon! Click here for photos.