IF WE CAN EDUCATE HER, SHE CAN RISE UP
MICHELLE WESTFORT, SVP CHIEF GROWTH OFFICER, HARVARD EXTENSION | PIVOT WORLDWIDE
Growing up in a family and culture where women are strong willed and respected for this, it was not until my professional life that I saw things were not like that everywhere.
Honestly, when I began my career, it was surprising to me that women did not see themselves as equal in the workplace. Over the years, I have grown to understand different cultures and situations but remain conscious of the gift I have gotten by having been raised in a very positive situation.
This year I traveled to some places where the young girls I saw were in poor, underprivileged situations. Immediately comparing them to my daughter (as all mothers do), I began to realize that I was passing onto her the strong sense of confidence, work ethic, positivity and passion and many of the girls I saw around the world were less fortunate and simply unable to get this from home. I knew I wanted to be involved in a project where I could share with others a chance to empower girls.
Learning about what the founders and team at the Commit 2 Change organization were doing in New York City inspired me. The organization was founded on the belief that educating girls can create positive change and that ultimately, a forward moving cycle of empowerment begins. I am in total agreement with the team that family upbringing impacts a girls’ self-worth, particularly with respect to confidence and coping. The idea that if we can educate her [girls], she can rise up and lift many up resonates with me.
While there are many amazing programs that the group is undertaking, I am incredibly honored to be leading a Campus Global Ambassador (CGA) program. We came together in sharing ideas about how to harness the support of ambitious and passionate future leaders and decided we should focus on building a network on university campuses. The program started with the defining of the role of the CGA and has led to the development of chapters on a few major university campuses and growing each week. Putting a structure around the mission itself gave us the opportunity to make it more impactful to all the girls involved.
Throughout the academic year, the girls are challenged and mentored building awareness and engagement programs, learning about development and fund raising, practicing building marketing campaigns and plans both digitally and with attractive charity-centric merchandise. We are building partnerships with well-known fashion designers and developing academic programs too. The year will be rich with learning, growing, laughter, peer support and giving.
My goal is to start the cycle of empowerment on campuses which will in turn support the same cycle in underprivileged communities. Further, the future leaders in the group are learning while they lead to make a difference but to also be strong women in the workplace in years to come. These are the women who will lift others up. We are change in the making and there is no greater gift one woman can give to another is support, education, empowerment, love and respect.
About the Author
Michelle is a wife and mother of two children and also spends her time in executive leadership, entrepreneurship, philanthropy and studies. She manages full cycle global student engagement from awareness to outcome, building and developing marketing and operations teams. Michelle holds degrees in Psychology (BA), Counseling Psychology- School/Career (MA) & Organizational Leadership (EdD). She resides near Boca Raton close by to the two most important women in her life: sister and mother.