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Will Empowered Women Please Step Up?

October 20th, 2014 Written by | Comments Off on Will Empowered Women Please Step Up?


Photo courtesy of Step Up’s Facebook page

In 2013 model Miranda Kerr attended a Venus ‘Step Up and Step Out’ event in NYC.  In an interview with PEOPLE she said the partnership “felt natural [because] … I’m all about encouraging women to be confident and embrace their individuality.”

The force behind the event was Step Up Women’s Network, a nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles with offices in Chicago and New York.  In the words of Elisa, a teen with Step Up, “To me ‘stepping up’ means ‘taking a stand, being successful and accomplishing what you believe you can do’.”

In 1998 thirty women gathered to discuss how they could help in the fight against breast cancer, and from their meetings a nonprofit was created.  “It became clear from the dialogue that whether or not the disease had directly affected us each, we all felt the need to take a more proactive role in our community, our wellness, our professional lives and our personal dedication to making a difference,” founder Kaye Popofsky Kramer notes on the website.  Sixteen years later the mission has evolved and Step Up has expanded into a national organization, garnered support from celebrities such as Jessica Alba and Larry King, and appeared in media outlets including the Chicago Tribune and The Wall Street Journal.

“Our mission really is to make sure girls are confident, college-bound, and career focused,” say Robin Beck, program manager at the New York office.  “We do that by inspiring women to inspire girls.”

The girls of Step Up are urban high school students who live at or below the federal poverty level and often come from difficult family situations.  Introduced to the program through extracurricular programs at partner schools, they are provided with a variety of enrichment programs such as career-readiness workshops, and corporate field trips that expose them to career options and let them interact with professional women, and mentoring programs that give them a chance to work with women from a variety of backgrounds.

The mentoring program is the highlight of Step Up, and career women are encouraged to get involved.  “Our professional women…they’re there for role modeling, mentoring, to help teen girls see the opportunities that are available to them in a variety of different careers,” Chicago director Cassandra Gaddo tells ABC7.

The program’s influence is apparent, at least according to Julissa Gonzalez in an interview with ABC7.  “I was this shy little girl who never actually experienced talking to a lot of people, and now that I’m in Step Up, I am so proud.”

So how does one get involved?

“Contact,” Beck says with a laugh.  “I suggest they contact me directly or through our website.”

“We are a membership organization,” adds Libby Shillito, New York’s event programs manager.  “To mentor or attend the events we do require you be a member.  It demonstrates to the girls that they are wholeheartedly committed to our mission with time, talent, and treasure.”

The membership fee and information about the different levels of membership can be found on the Step Up website.

Tags: Children · Education · Girls · National · Organization Spotlight · Women