It's often said that necessity is the mother of invention, and empowering women — while always vital — has become more necessary than ever under the Trump administration. These empowering women's organizations you need to know about emerged from an urgency to penetrate male-dominated fields, and provide opportunities for women to break into industries like music, tech, entertainment, politics, and more.
Additionally, many of these initiatives were born out of the desire to embrace intersectional feminism and offer equal opportunities to all women. It's no secret that opportunities for women often come from other women, especially in male-dominated fields. Roxane Gay wrote in her book Bad Feminist, "I will keep writing about these intersections as a writer and a teacher, as a black woman, as a bad feminist, until I no longer feel like what I want is impossible. I no longer want to believe that these problems are too complex for us to make sense of them.”
In her 2016 book Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between, Lauren Graham says it's all about paying it forward. "I guess what I’m saying is, let’s keep lifting each other up. It’s not lost on me that two of the biggest opportunities I’ve had to break into the next level were given to me by successful women in positions of power," Graham wrote. "If I’m ever in that position and you ask me, 'Who?' I’ll do my best to say, 'You' too."
These 10 organizations were founded by women who are doing just that.
Stevie Nicks has long said that every band should have a woman in it, and GIRLSCHOOL Co-founder Anna Bulbrook agrees. Bulbrook, multi-instrumentalist for the band The Airborne Toxic Event, and leader of dreamy indie band The Bulls, imagined an intersectional space where women were not the minority in the alternative rock landscape as she had been for 10 years.
I first saw Bulbrook at the Midtown Music Festival in Atlanta in 2015. It was mid afternoon, and it was one of those oppressively hot days where all you can manage is lying in the grass, which is exactly what I was doing. Then The Airborne Toxic Event came onstage, and the energy coming off of Bulbrook was so magnetic that I sprang to my feet. I watched in a trance as sweat poured down her forehead, wetting her bangs and pooling under her mirrored, white sunglasses as she jumped into the crowd while ferociously playing her violin, not afraid for a minute that fans wouldn't catch her. This is the kind of energy Bulbrook brings to GIRLSCHOOL where she provides a supportive net to cradle, nurture, and empower females musicians.
Founded in 2015, GIRLSCHOOL has grown into a vibrant volunteer network of women in music who connect to create an empowering in-person, and virtual community for one another while supporting women and girls on their musical journeys. A portion of the proceeds from every GIRLSCHOOL event benefits a girl-positive organization.
"Most of the time, we're at alternative radio festivals with Airborne, and I'll be one of two or three women on a 20-band lineup," Bulbrook said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "It's kind of nice to be the unicorn, because you're memorable. But then sometimes it sucks to be the unicorn, because you're lonely."
GIRLSCHOOL has created a space where female musicians don't have to feel lonely; and that is badass AF.
Technology is a notoriously male-dominated field, making identifying opportunities for women even more important.
The self-proclaimed "most powerful #girlsquad in America," #BUILTBYGIRLS encourages girls to use technology to identify and develop solutions that empower the 62 million girls that don’t have access to a traditional education across the globe.
Currently the organization is partnering with Wave, a mobile technology platform, for a year-long mentoring program that pairs girls with mentors from companies like Snap, Spotify, and more.
The program works by matching young women interested in learning about tech careers with professionals who are "killing it" in a range of industries from music to machine learning. Each pair meets once a month for one hour at the advisor’s office over a span of three months. Each advisor and advisee commits to a year in the program, rotating to a new advisor or advisee every three months to focus on real-life learning; relevant skills, and cultivating a broad network of professional advisors.
Lauren Slowik, head of education at 3D printing community Shapeways, works to empower women (and beyond) to get into 3D printing and design. She developed a pilot curriculum with the New York Public Library to teach 3D modeling, printing and digital entrepreneurship skills, and is now beginning to open it to all libraries and schools across the country.
“We worked closely with the library’s education staff,” Slowik said on Shapeways' blog. “The courses will focus on three unique topics including entrepreneurship and how to sell your creations, advanced manufacturing design software and 3D printing in different materials. Armed with this knowledge, more people can now turn their creative ideas into something real.”
Other groups are getting to the space as well. Women in 3D Printing is an organization dedicated to promoting, supporting, and inspiring women who are using additive manufacturing technologies.
Giving women and girls a voice is one of the most effective ways to advance the gender equality conversation. WriteGirl, a Los Angeles-based creative writing and mentoring organization, spotlights the power of a girl and her pen.
"Many of our teens attend schools with over 3,000 students. The counselor to student ratio in Los Angeles of 810:1 is one of the worst in the country. We know they aren't getting the individual help they need," WriteGirl explained on its website. "Many of our girls face tremendous challenges including abuse, neglect, depression and much more."
The organization matches girls with women writers who mentor them in creative writing. With 200 volunteer women writers serving more than 500 girls annually, WriteGirl produces dozens of writing workshops, panel discussions and special events to help girls get creative, get through high school and get to college. Since 2001, 100 percent of their graduating seniors have entered college, many on full or partial scholarships. The organization also runs in-school programs in underserved communities and in detention centers.
"Last year, one of our teens who had been incarcerated just six months ago, was accepted to two colleges, thanks to help from her WriteGirl mentor and WriteGirl resources."
I recently discovered Belletrist, an online book club curated by actor Emma Roberts and writer/producer Karah Preiss, when I went to a literary salon co-hosted by the group.
Roberts and Preiss met in New York almost 10 years ago, but became friends when they realized they both suffered from the same condition: tsundoku, a Japanese word for pile of books that describes the compulsive habit of buying books and allowing them to pile up, according to the Belletrist website.
Belletrist is a book club that celebrates reading and writing by and for women. "When we finish a great book we can’t wait to talk to our friends about the experience, to pass along the thing that moved us so much," the pair wrote on their website. "Sometimes we even find ourselves initiating a conversation with a stranger who’s holding our latest read. We love that books give us the opportunity to connect and we wanted to create a space that fosters that connection for readers around the world."
MuslimGirl is normalizing the word “Muslim” for both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. MuslimGirl.net was launched from the bedroom of a high school girl who was fed up with the misleading misconceptions surrounding Islam — the way the news coverage and media outlets kept skewing the image of Muslims into a nasty one; the mistrust, racism, and flat-out hatred that the inaccuracies flamed; the muting of young Muslim voices from mainstream society; and the resulting disillusionment that young Muslims suffer about their religion in the tornado of it all, according to the MuslimGirl website.
MuslimGirl encourages women and girls to pioneer their own paths as Muslim women living in today’s modern society.
"We at MuslimGirl are taking back the narrative. We use our own voices to speak up for ourselves. We are raising the place of Muslim women in mainstream society," the website stated. "We are drawing awareness to the Qur’an’s message of gender equality and Islam’s principle of peace. We are paving the way towards a world in which every woman can raise her head without fear of being attacked for her gender or beliefs."
Girl Up is a movement committed to empowering generations of girl leaders with a goal to impact 100,000 girls by 2020.
"Girls are powerful. When they’re educated, healthy, and safe, they transform their communities," the Girl Up website explained. "When girls stand up for girls in need, they empower each other and transform our world. As the United Nations Foundation’s adolescent girl campaign, Girl Up engages girls to take action. Led by a community of nearly half a million passionate advocates raising awareness and funds, our efforts help the hardest to reach girls living in places where it is hardest to be a girl."
The organization partners with a diverse cross section of individuals – celebrities, athletes, business executives, and philanthropists – who actively work to empower adolescent girls around the world.
8She Should Run
She Should Run is jump starting women’s political careers by inspiring more women to consider running for public office.
"We provide the spark for women’s political careers by inspiring more women to consider public office, and we make the case that public service matters," the organization said in its mission statement. "We know that when women run for office they win at the same rates as men. Yet women are not encouraged and recruited at the same rate as men."
The She Should Run Incubator is their online program that helps more women envision themselves in public leadership, and provides thoughtful guidance and support for women considering a future run for office.
"Unique among other traditional organizations that recruit specific women for specific seats, our goal is to expand the community of women considering public service as a leadership path."
9Girls On The Run
Girls On The Run helps inspire girls to be joyful, healthy, and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running as part of the process.
According to the website, "One girl put it this way, 'I learned that I am the boss of my brain.' Girls on the Run inspires girls to take charge of their lives and define the future on their terms. It’s a place where girls learn that they can. No limits. No constraints. Only opportunities to be remarkable."
Girls On The Run meets with girls in small teams to teach them life skills, community engagement, and teamwork through movement because, every journey begins with a single step, and the belief that you can successfully take the next one.
Curated photography project Girlgaze is taking back the word girl by pushing back against the cultural projections and traditional gender roles imposed upon girls from the outside world, media, and culture, according to the Girlgaze website.
"Instead, we aim to represent the intelligence, creativity, complexity and diversity of girls’ experience — across nation, ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, economic background. It is up to those who identify with being a girl to break the boundaries and determine their own identity, sexuality, and beauty."
Girlgaze began as a social media movement with more than 750,000 submissions and has grown into the first multimedia platform committed to supporting girls behind the camera. Founded by Amanda de Cadenet and supported by some of the biggest powerhouses in media, fashion and photography — including Amber Valletta, Sam Taylor-Johnson, Lynsey Addario, Collier Schorr and Inez van Lamsveerde — Girlgaze has started a new conversation about what it means to be female through the eyes of young creatives.