For a second year, Cover Girl has hosted its #GirlsCan program, a movement to empower young women to overcome barriers and break boundaries. The event, held August 11 at The NeueHouse screening room in Manhattan, welcomed journalist Soledad O’Brien, who debuted several videos she produced featuring stories of women who faced challenges, defied the odds and chased their dreams. Soledad then moderated a panel featuring Elizabeth Caudle, East Coast Regional Director of Girls Who Code; Shelley Zalis, Chairwoman of TFQ Ventures and Founder of The Girls Lounge; and Geena Rocero, a transgender model and activist featured in the series.
Geena’s video segment put the spotlight on the challenges of the transgender population. While she graced the cover of top magazines and walked in fashion runways, she harbored the secret of her transformation, which she revealed during a Ted Talk in 2014.
Since then, she has harnessed her clout, founding Gender Proud, an avenue to work for global transgender rights.
Rapper Becky G was featured in a segment showing how the Latina rap star broke through in the male-dominated rap industry. Another video followed Rochelle Ballayntyne, a college student, in her quest to become the only African-American woman chess master in the U.S. A final installment profiled Tina Garnanez, a former female military veteran, coping with PTSD.
Last year Cover Girl announced it would earmark a minimum of $5 million over the next five years to support the work of individuals and non-profit organizations that help women blaze trails. In the first year, #GirlsCan collaborated with two non-profit partners to help impact change including Girls Who Code, and Soledad O’Brien + Brad Raymond Starfish Foundation. Through this programming, Cover Girl:
• Helped Girls Who Code get closer to achieving a goal of closing the gender gap in computer science, helping fund 500 new Clubs programs for the 2015-2016 academic year. By the end of 2015, Girls Who Code programs will have taught computer science to 10,000 girls in over 34 states.
• Challenged Girls Who Code Clubs’ participants to design a mobile app that would empower women and girls to express themselves and celebrate their unique beauty. After working on their apps for one month, a panel of judges reviewed the submissions based on creativity/originality and the ability to communicate the concept clearly.
• Granted 36 scholarships over the next two years to young women in their pursuit of higher education to create high impact change for women in the future through the Soledad O’Brien + Brad Raymond Starfish Foundation.
• Encouraged awareness of #GirlsCan and continued to impact change through a special retail promotion where purchase of a specially-marked mascara benefited two additional non-profit organizations, Step Up and Dress for Success.
“We’ve made progress,” Soledad said during the screening of the video series. But women are falling behind men in business, music, sports and science. For every dollar earned by men, women earned only $.78.”
The panel discussion highlighted the challenges and victories in challenging gender inequality.
“My goal is to change the rule. There are cultural adjustments that we want to see to help women get to the top and make a better place for all people,” said Geena. “Lead a team the way your want to be led. If you work and don’t enjoy it, it is called stress. If you work and enjoy it, it’s called passion.”