Growing up, I never really thought much of President's Day. It meant a 3-day weekend and lots of commercials on TV about special sales (particularly on cars). I also knew it had to do with Washington and Lincoln's birthdays, which were listed on every February calendar. That was really all I thought about when it came to this holiday.
Fast forward to 2015, when The Viola Project decided to run what would be our first annual day-long workshop focusing on women in leadership - "Every Inch a Queen." Due to its success, we run this program again for the following 2 years -- and plan to continue so in the years to come.
We've known for a while that this year's workshop was going to be different, though. When we first discovered learned the workshop would be tuition free, thanks to funding from the American Association of University Women, we were expecting to celebrate the first woman president. After two years of looking at statistics showing the remarkably skewed proportions of women vs men in political positions, we were so excited to talk about this advancement of women in leadership in our country. As we all know, this is not how the election turned out.
Registration went live on our website two days before the inauguration and two weeks later, we had completely reached capacity for the class. As our amazing teachers Jessica and Carlyle planned for this year's workshop, there were many discussions on how to frame the conversation. We wanted the focus of the program to be what it always was -- exploring why more women aren't in leadership positions and what we can do to change that.
Last week, on the morning of Monday, February 20th, we welcomed 16 girls ages 10-15 to City Lit Theatre. 8 of the girls were returning students and 8 were new. By 9:03am, everyone had arrived for the 9am workshop. If you've ever run a workshop of any sort, you know what a feat that is in and of itself!
They talked about influential women. They discussed what makes a good leader. They created a Girls' Bill of Rights. They laughed and goofed off and performed some of Shakespeare's most famous leaders from Cleopatra to Macbeth to King Lear.
There was no name calling. There was no bashing of individuals. There was positivity and there was hope. These girls talked objectively about what was happening around them and what they could do to change the future.
Did we leave on Monday having solved the issue of women's lack of representation in politics? Of course not. But we did leave knowing that the future generations are in very good hands.