Lead Like a Girl

It’s fitting that the theme for Elmwood’s inaugural Lead Like a Girl conference was Dream. Dare. Do.—because that’s exactly how this inspired, student-led event came to be. 

A little over a year ago, Elmwood’s Head Girl, Grace Goldberg, dreamed of creating a conference that would help girls in middle school develop their leadership skills. And so she dared to take an important first step, forming an advisory committee to help shape the future of the conference. After months of dedication—working closely with Cheryl Boughton, Head of School, and numerous students and staff—the event finally came to fruition on April 30, 2019, jump-starting an exciting new tradition we hope to continue for years to come.

In her opening remarks at Tuesday’s conference, Grace explained that she was moved to create Lead Like a Girl after hearing a troubling statistic, which suggested that while 92% of girls believe that anyone can develop leadership skills, only 21% believe they possess the qualities needed to be a good leader. With that, her mission became clear: she would create a conference that not only aimed to strengthen girls’ leadership skills but also helped to improve their self-confidence. 

The Lead Like a Girl conference was a tremendous success, filled to the brim with inspiring keynote speakers, fun leadership activities, and the opportunity to meet with dozens of like-minded individuals from across the region. We were thrilled to host over 100 students from 10 local schools, as well as our own Middle School girls, for the conference. All of our participants were divided into groups for the day, allowing them to step outside of their comfort zones and forge new friendships.

The conference kicked off with an empowering speech by Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, who spoke openly about being true to yourself and forging your own path. It was inspiring to hear of her personal leadership journey and to learn that there are numerous ways to become a leader. As Ms. Grégoire Trudeau put it, “You can develop your own type of leadership. There are different ways to leave a mark."

After the speech, the groups moved onto their first round of leadership activities. For this portion of the day, Elmwood’s prefect team, along with numerous senior school girls, took the lead, helping to run each of the activities and guiding students through the stations. The organizing committee put together an impressive range of activities—from obstacle courses and escape rooms to team-building exercises and engaging debates. It was great to see everyone working together to complete the tasks.

After a delicious lunch provided by Elmwood’s own Chef Candice, it was time for more activities, followed by our second guest speaker of the day, Samra Zafar. Ms. Zafar—an award-winning speaker, author, scholar, and social entrepreneur—spoke to the importance of authentic leadership, resilience, and youth empowerment. After her rousing speech, students were given the opportunity to ask questions and engage in conversation with Ms. Zafar. It was wonderful to hear so many bright, thought-provoking questions from the crowd, and to see the support of everyone in the room. After taking part in a final discussion and listening to closing remarks from Grace and Ms. Boughton, our guests made their way home—along with a newfound set of leadership skills and the confidence to Dream. Dare. Do.

This event would not have been possible without the dedicated work of our Lead Like a Girl student planning committee, including Grace Goldberg, Charlotte Pryor Hofley, Yunjia Hao, Jordyn Carroll, Kennedy Reid, Maya Ladki, Claire Nield, Somieya Khan, Mackenzie Johnson, and Avril Sun—as well as our dedicated prefect team. Thanks also to the many senior school students who worked tirelessly on the day of the conference to ensure everything ran smoothly, and to the staff and faculty who guided our students through the planning process. 

Lead Like a Girl showed what can be accomplished when students have the courage to set big goals, take chances, and lead by example. We were thrilled by the success of our first ever student-led leadership conference—and we cannot wait to see what the future holds for this exciting event!

Stay up to date on plans for the 2020 conference!