Girls Leadership Project Hosts Sleepover

This past Saturday, 40 girls from Andover’s Girls Leadership Project held a discussion-based sleepover in the School Room of Abbot Hall to talk about women’s leadership at Andover. Comprised of female Lowers and Seniors, Girls Leadership Project (GLP) was founded in 2009 to encourage girls to pursue roles in leadership positions, according to Becky Sykes, Associate Head of School and GLP Faculty Co-Advisor. Several female Seniors led the sleepover, sharing advice with the underclassmen on being leaders on campus, according to Gabbi Fisher ’13. The sleepover started at 10:00 p.m. when the girls first sat down for their first activity, led by Nikita Singareddy ’13, which centered on labels and identity. “We wrote down six things we strongly identified with and then had to gradually remove one by one until we were left with the last defining word i.e. feminist, optimist, female, friend, daughter, student, etc.,” wrote Rebecca Somer ’15 in an e-mail to The Phillipian. Later that night, the girls watched a TED talk titled “Why We Have Too Few Woman Leaders” by Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. Sandberg’s talk hones in on three specific points that she feels women need to understand in order to attain leadership positions in fields ranging from business to philanthropy. The video touched upon the need for confidence in women’s own abilities, a spouse who assumes equal responsibility within the household and a strong work ethic regardless of future thoughts that may prevent one from working, such as pregnancy. Caroline Robinson, Instructor in English and co-advisor to the improv troupe Under The Bed, also led a discussion on her new project, “Ladies Laugh-in,” an all-female improvisation group that will hold its first event tonight at 6 p.m. The girls at the sleepover raided a costume box to put on their own improvisations at the sleepover. Robinson said that after noticing a lack of Females participating in improv comedy and hearing that some girls felt that an idea that girls are not funny enough to be elected to Student Council, she decided to create the all-female group. “I did not arrive with a message so much as a commitment to fun. The past few weeks have not been easy for most kids on campus. So many important issues have been raised, and thinking about things in new ways can be exhausting. Feelings get hurt. In my experience, improv can shake things up in a way that makes people want to laugh instead of cry,” wrote Robinson in an e-mail to The Phillipian. “She gave us a ton of hilarious props and led an improvisation activity. Everyone was laughing the whole time,” wrote Somer in an email to The Phillipian. “[Seniors] felt that with this extended period of time, the Lower girls would have a chance to become more comfortable and share their views on gender issues and have discussion. They got to really know the Seniors,” said Jennifer Elliott, Cluster Dean in Abbot and co-advisor to GLP. A discussion followed among the students about women in the workforce, particularly executive positions, according to Corinne Singer ’15. “We then looked further into why this is the case, discussing the qualities that women with a lot of power have,” she wrote in an e-mail to The Phillipian. “We just had a very revealing conversation on our perception of women’s leadership here at Phillips Academy, and how it sometimes feels intimidating to run for leadership positions as young students,” said Fisher. Since the group’s creation in 2009, Sykes believes that GLP has offered girls at Andover a base of support. “When we were having our discussions on Saturday night, it was evident that the themes that were popping up were confidence, support, courage and I guess the willingness to do something hard despite the scrutiny of community. This discussion is what the project has aimed to foster,” said Sykes. Though Sykes said that this group has taken girls’ leadership into the right direction, Elliott noted that she had seen little change since her time as a student at Andover in the 90s. “In some ways, I’m struck by how unusual my experience was compared to the one that girls today are encountering: I had a Senior president who was a girl; in my Fall Term of Senior year, all the girls teams won New Englands… so I’m just a little troubled by how slow the process has been,” said Elliot. Aside from this past Saturday’s sleepover, GLP hosted a dinner in the winter and aspires to host more events, including an event with guest speaker Amy Richards from the movie “Makers: Women Who Made America,” with whom Sykes has communicated for a GLP end of year dinner.