Girls Leadership

Dixon Girls Forums

Societal perceptions of leadership tend to exclude women, especially young women. Girls are not encouraged to seek positions of leadership – either formal or informal – and their opportunities for mentoring and support by other girls and women are fewer than those available to boys. Girls continue to struggle with stereotypes that can prove to be serious obstacles to seeking leadership roles, succeeding in those roles, or continuing to set goals related to leadership development during their secondary, college, and post-college careers.

The Dixon Girls Forums were designed to address these issues by providing mentoring, skill development, and encouragement for girls to self-identify as leaders throughout their lives.

The curriculum was developed based on the findings from the Leadership Skills Inventory (Karnes & Chauvin, 2005). According to Karnes & Chauvin, 2005, the skills necessary for leadership development can be classified into nine categories: written communication, speech communication, character building, decision making, group dynamics, problem solving, personal, and planning. The Dixon Girls Forums bring together girl leaders at a school, including those elected to student government, girls who ran for an office and were not elected, girls appointed to or elected to head social or activity clubs, captains of sports teams, and more informal leaders as identified by school administration. The Forums provoke ongoing discussion by the girls, heighten their awareness of what type of leaders they are, and help them identify which skills need improvement.

The Dixon Girls Forums were initially implemented in four Salt Lake area high schools during the 2001-2002 academic year. Based on feedback from the girls who had participated, that they wished they had had the Forums when they were in junior high, the curriculum was modified and in 2005, the Forums were expanded to reach girls in junior high schools. During the 2007-2008 academic year, with the collaboration of students from the Lowell Bennion Community Service Center, the Forums expanded again to include elementary schools, particularly those with diverse populations. Girls in grades three through twelve now have opportunities to participate in Dixon Girls Forums.

Since 2001, the Dixon Girls Forums have been held at the following:

Anna Smith Elementary – Wendover, Utah          Latinos in Action Conference
Canyons Transition Academy          McPolin Elementary
Dual Immersion Academy          Murray High School
East High – Utah Federation for Youth          North Star Elementary
Ecker Junior High          Odyssey Charter School
Eisenhower Junior High          Our Lady of Lourdes
Esperanza Elementary          Riverview Junior High
Fox Hills Elementary          Rowland Hall
Girl Scouts of Utah – Leadership Conference          Salt Lake Arts Academy
Highland High School          Salt Lake Housing Authority:
Bud Bailey Complex
Cyprus Complex
Hillcrest Junior High          St. Andrew
Horizonte Single Parent Program          St. Francis – Xavier
Hunter Junior High          St. Vincents De Paul
Judge Memorial High School          The McGillis School
Kearns St. Ann          West High

 

A consistent theme among the girls at the schools was an interest in finding ways to bring different groups of girls together to overcome “cliques” and exclusion. When multiple Forums are held at a school, girls attend the initial leadership program, including interactive exercises among the girls, and then select subsequent Forum topics from a wide-range of options including:

    “Positive Attitude/Positive Action”

    Communication skills – verbal/written
    Mission statement – setting goals for the Forums
    Outreach to new students – Pen Pal program
    Journals for the summer

        
    “What’s Cool?”

    Body image/self-esteem
    Being a mentor/support for other younger girls
    Healthy life choices
    Media pressure

        
    “Accepting You – Accepting Me”

    Understanding stereotyping
    Learning to respect each other
    Conflict resolution/bullying
    Active listening

        
    “One Plus One Equals More Than Two”

    Character building/self awareness
    Community Service Learning project
    Group dynamic
    Mentoring

        
    “Get Ur Good On”

    Leadership skills
    Bullying/communication
    Future planning
    School newspapers

If you are interested in having a Dixon Girls Forum at your school, or if you would like more information, please email: cagney.smullin@utah.edu