Female Students Launch NFP For Future ChangeMakeHers
21 August 2017 at 8:40 am
A group of year 12 students have launched a new not-for-profit organisation to empower girls to become changemakers of the future and encourage them to pursue primarily male-dominated careers.
ChangeMakeHer, which was founded by 17-year-old Maja Wilbrink along with a group of her friends at Brisbane State High School, aims to inspire and empower young women to go into underrepresented fields, such as entrepreneurship, STEM (Science, Technology Engineering and Maths) and leadership roles.
The organisation aims to form a community and develop 21st-century skills to equip young women for the rapidly changing workplace and educate them about gender equity, assisting in developing strategies to overcome potential challenges.
Wilbrink, who is also involved in a number of other entrepreneurial ventures, told Pro Bono News she decided to start ChangeMakeHer after learning about a group in New Zealand called GirlBoss, which was founded by Alexia Hilbertidou.
“Entrepreneurship has always been something that I am interested in and I’ve always noticed the lack of women in the field, and so that has always been something that I’ve been passionate about,” Wilbrink said.
“I got added to a Facebook group called Gen Z Entrepreneurs, a group for young entrepreneurs to connect and find out about each others stories and possible ways to work together.
“This amazing girl called Alexia, posted in the group and explained what she was working on and … as soon as she shared what she was doing, explained the message, it just resonated with me.
“So I messaged her and said: ‘I love what you’re doing, and I’d love to bring it over to Australia somehow’. I didn’t know how but I wanted to bring it to Australia. I just thought I have a lot of friends that I know are interested in this and I thought it could really have the potential to make a difference.”
To kickstart the movement in Australia, the student-led organisation, which has united year 12 women across the country, is set to hold a cross-school conference in October at the start of the new term.
The EmpowHer conference, specifically for grades 9 to 11, will feature a number of keynote speakers, Q&A panels and workshops.
“We’re going to have 150 girls from across schools in Brisbane come along to the conference,” Wilbrink said.
“The name is EmpowHer, and that is our goal really. We want girls to walk away ultimately feeling empowered and inspired to start their own ChangeMakeHer groups within their schools.
“What GirlBoss does is, across New Zealand they have pods within schools … so girls will have meetings at lunch or run their own conferences, all under the same organisation, so that’s sort of our call to action for the conference. At the end, that’s what we’re ultimately wanting to achieve, to spread the message and amplify it.”
ChangeMakeHer also has a website and blog where they have published an online series of interviews with women in prominent fields about their careers to help with representation.
Wilbrink said representation was “incredibly important” to be able to show girls what opportunities were out there.
“I think that is a pretty big issue with women and is something I experienced myself,” she said.
“In high schools when we have speakers come in, they are very rarely entrepreneurs to begin with, but if they are, they will be male. You don’t have that female representation which is so important in encouraging girls to recognise that they can be in positions like that.
“So I think just being surrounded by other people who are doing really cool things, that has impacted me a lot, and through my online businesses… and I’ve made connections there with people and seeing what other people have been able to achieve, with the same resources, the same capabilities of you, was really my motivating, driving force.”
Wilbrink said she was inspired by those around her and her aim was to help other girls realise what they are capable of.
“The biggest thing for me has been being surrounded by people who are so ambitious and who have achieved so much as well, that really inspires you and empowers you and that is part of why I am so passionate about ChangeMakeHer,” she said.
“I have seen first hand, the impact that hearing somebody else’s story or seeing what someone else has done can have.
“With ChangeMakeHer, what sparked me to realise that you know, hey I could actually do something like this, was seeing Alexia, having achieved the exact same thing, being in grade 12 and starting this organisation.
“Of course I knew what an entrepreneur was, but I guess I was sort of naive in the way that I never really made the mental connection that I could be someone in that position, it seemed like a distant prospect, you think of an entrepreneur, you think of Steve Jobs or Elon Musk or someone like that so I never really considered it as something that I could do, but seeing Alexia and the Gen Z Entrepreneur group, seeing what other people had achieved and all the cool things that they had been able to do was just really inspiring and I think that is what I really want to do with the conference as well.”