Kevin: An important part of educating the next generation is empowering young people to believe in themselves and reach their full potential. There are 25 million girls in America's schools, and today's girls will be tomorrow's leaders in society and in every field of work. What can we do now to set them on a journey to success? How can we best support and inspire the next generation of girls? Are we equipping schools to build confidence in young women of all backgrounds and abilities? What should be done at the individual and collective level to support all girls with the resources they need to succeed? This is what I want to know. And today, I'm joined by Jes Wolfe to find out.
Kevin: Jes Wolfe is the CEO and hairwoman of Rebel Girls, a global brand dedicated to helping raise the most inspired and confident generation of girls through books, digital media, experiences and community. Today, she joins us to discuss the importance of empowering young women and how school systems and families can work together to do so. Jes, welcome to the show.
Jes Wolfe: Thank you so much for having me.
Kevin: So I want to talk about Rebel Girls. It's been your brainchild, and I just love the concept, but before I do, I want to talk a little bit about how you got there. You've had such a wide range of experiences from finance, various industries in media, healthcare. At some point in time, obviously you decided you wanted to seek greater impact and what led you to that?
Jes Wolfe: So after I was an investment banking analyst at Morgan Stanley straight out of college, sank my teeth in finance and learned business. But after that, I went to the International Finance Corporation, which is the private sector arm of the World Bank. And that really instilled in me this concept of a double bottom line. And how do you build commercial businesses that have commercial success, that have great impact on communities, and societies and people And so I worked with a number of entrepreneurs in the health and education space around the world, a lot in the Middle East, and the Balkans, and also in Asia, and really got to understand what it meant to build a business that also had impact. And so that has stayed with me. And since then I did a number of other things as I built my career, but later in life, I decided it had to be that. And I had to build double bottom line businesses, but that foundational experience as a 24, 25yearold at the World Bank was pivotal for that.
Kevin: As you decided on what path you were going to choose, what made you land in the area of impact around girls?
Jes Wolfe: There's a gender gap and I felt it as a kid I felt it with how I was raised I felt it in my career. I've seen it. I see how girls feel that they're less smart and less capable than boys. And when you think about the results of the world today, 2% of venture funding goes to women. Only 8% of the Fortune 500 are being led by women. There's a gender pay gap. There so many issues on a gender front, and it feels a very worthwhile fight to fight. And ultimately, I think that girls are strong and smart and capable and creative. If we can inspire them, and if we can level the confidence gap with girls, we have a chance. We have a chance to combat climate change, and all of our geopolitical messes in the world, and to make the world a more just and fair and prosperous place. And I can't think of a cause that speaks to me more than that right now to fight for.
Kevin: And how did you decide the mission of Rebel Girls, taking all of what you said in context?
Jes Wolfe: So I came into Rebel Girls about three and a half years ago when there were two books and the original founders had this idea for the first book and then the second book about representation in media and children's media. And they wanted to help inspire and instill confidence in girls. And so when I came to lead the company, I thought we could be a little more ambitious than that and we could take our own advice about dreaming bigger. How can we help raise the most inspired and the most confident global generation of girls to date? And how can we help girls enable them to be the stars of their own story, and ask them to be the heroes of tomorrow, to be the change in the world that we need? And so that's kind of the genesis of how it evolved to be bold, to be Rebel.
Kevin: What are some of the things, projects, priorities you're working on?
Jes Wolfe: So we have a lot of projects. There two really big ones that I'd love to highlight. The first is our Rebel Girls App. So we launched an app eight months ago, and this is our first direct to consumer where we can have a direct relationship with girls. We took our award-winning podcast stories, beloved, beautiful audio pieces, and we put them in an app. And then we took the artwork that we have worked with more than 500 women and non-binary artists from around the world. And we put that into the app, and added some features and archival photos and interactivity. And that's a very, very big project for us. And we're really pleased. We won three Webb for our audio stories this year. We won the Apple Design Award for this app. And we are really focusing on building out an incredibly immersive screenlimited experience for girls. So that's one project.
And then the second really big project and I'll give you a sneak peek, because we got these yesterday. It comes out at the end of September and this book is on 100 inspiring young change makers. So these are stories of 100 women and girls today they're all under 30 years old, from all over the world who are moving, and shaking, and doing the most amazing things to impact lives, and communities, and society and all of that good stuff. And they're the most relatable heroes we've ever put in front of girls. And creating this book, we also worked with 96 women and girls under the age of 30 to write the stories, to edit the stories, to create the artwork for the book. And so this is really a power of youth, it's a power of girls for girls, and we're incredibly excited to bring it to the world.
Kevin: I'm very struck by the fact that you found these women around the world under 30. They're not named people they're not popular they're not on TV every day. How did you find these women, these girls? Because I do think that if you're going to build a movement, particularly a national or global movement, authenticity begins with finding people who the average person maybe hasn't heard of.
Jes Wolfe: We, in this book, worked with Room to Read, which is an international nonprofit focused on literacy for girls and helping them gain life skills in the most developing countries. And we were so thrilled to partner with them. And four of the girls featured in this book are from Room to Read. Sri Lanka, India, Vietnam these kind of very, very inspirational, ordinary girls who are doing incredible things, given their circumstances with creativity and gusto and are making an impact for themselves, their families, their communities. And so we're able to share some of those stories too, which I think is incredibly powerful in a very, very authentic way.
Kevin: One thing that you talk about a lot is the confidence level, and what are some of the unique factors that impact a girl's confidence level? Which is something that you directly talk about and want to address.
Jes Wolfe: Yep. ew things many things, but a few things to highlight. So we firmly believe that girls need to see heroes, inspiring people, and role models that look like them, or come from the same background as they come from, or have the same interests as they do. They need to be relatable so that girls can feel seen, can feel heard, can feel inspired and it's not something so aspirational that that's for other girls. It's for them. So we are very, very big believer in showcasing such a wide, wide, wide array of women from all kinds of backgrounds, and interests, and what have you, so that every girl can find at least one, if not dozens of role models that really speak to her and inspire her. And so we think that's the first step, which is you need to be able to see it, to believe it to then be it. So that's one piece.
And then the second piece of confidence is then once you're inspired, what do you do? How do you take steps toward your own confidence, toward your own selfactualization? And so what we're doing now is in the back of each book we're adding activities. So, okay. You've been inspired by all these amazing women. Now here's a step by step guide for you to practice and to work toward your own achievement and confidence. So in our Awesome Entrepreneur's book, for instance, there 25 stories of these incredible women who've built businesses. And then at the back of the book, there's a step by step guide for, okay, now you build your own business. And here's what you do first and second. And having girls do that makes them actually believe that they can do that and that builds their confidence, so that then the next thing they believe they can do that too.
So we think that the activation piece is a critical step in addition to the inspiration piece. And then also once a girl does something, I really encourage parents, teachers, and adults to support her, to find her superpower. Okay, you built this business. Amazing. Now let's do this. Now let's do that. Oh, you love math or you love sports. Whatever it is, just encourage her in her superpower so that she feels that she can achieve, and she can keep going, and learn some of those important skills like tenacity and perseverance that help us become more successful adults.
Kevin: You mentioned the support of parents and teachers, the community that's around girls. Do you feel ... Frankly, I do. Do you feel that school systems as a whole sometimes ignore some of these things that would benefit girls' ability to have confidence in their future and what they can do?
Jes Wolfe: Absolutely. I think there's no direct answer because every school is different and every school's system is different and you have a wide range of best in class to needing some areas for development. Generally speaking, I think there's a lot more that we can do, and we should do, and we need to do. And when I say we need to do, I think of some of the more recent statistics that have come out about girls. So age six is when the confidence gap starts. That's when girls start thinking they're less smart and less capable than boys. And when you look at that 6 to 12yearold level, that confidence reduces another 30% by the time they're 12. That 6 to 12yearold girls are times more likely to suffer depression than boys they're times more likely to suffer cyberbullying than boys they're times more likely to drop out of sports than boys.
Kevin: Why at age six, does this happen? What is going on?
Jes Wolfe: I think we raise boys and girls differently. A lot of that is storytelling. A lot of that is media. A lot of that is, what stories do we showcase our girls and our boys? And to date, it's been incredibly skewed. From a study that Lego came out with recently in terms of not just the media and the stories, but parents are four times more likely to encourage girls to engage in dance and dress up than boys. Parents are two times more likely to encourage boys to engage in coding than girls. Parents are three times more likely to encourage girls to cook or bake than boys. So we're still encouraging girls and boys to do different things and we're showing them stories of differences. And then we're a little bit shocked when they think of themselves differently.
We are leading, and we believe in leading by example and in showcasing women from all backgrounds, and all body sizes, and hair shapes, and colors, and interests and ages. And we want to make it so that anyone can be a hero and can be inspirational and their stories should be celebrated. And we want to encourage girls to be bold, and brave, and strong, and kind. And we have seen some of the bigger media companies follow suit and change. And you've seen Disney princesses get a makeover, and you've seen Barbie get a makeover and it's time. And more makeovers are needed.
Kevin: That's awesome. So this is what I really want to know. There are parents out there who are grappling with the craziness of today's world and they have young girls. What advice would you give young parents with young girls as to how to ensure in spite of all those forces around them, that their confidence continues to grow and develop?
Jes Wolfe: So tell them more stories. Shameless plug: Rebel Girls is a great resource, whether it's our books or our podcast or our app. But stories it's the number one way of learning for kids. So tell them stories of all kinds of women from all kinds of backgrounds, doing all kinds of things and tell them stories all the time.
And then the second thing is encourage them help them find their superpower encourage them to use it. Again, it could be music, or bugs, or swimming, or math, or they're incredibly welcoming for friends and people and they're just incredibly empathetic girls. Whatever that superpower is, give them praise, tell them that they're good at it, help them excel, and that will help them build their confidence for the next and the next.
Kevin: Jes Wolfe, thank you so much for joining us on What I Want To Know. You're doing terrific work and thank you for joining.
Jes Wolfe: Thank you for having me.
Kevin: Thanks for listening to What I Want To Know. Be sure to follow and subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app so you can explore other episodes and dive into our discussions on the future of education. And write a review of the show. I also encourage you to join the conversation and let me know what you want to know, using hashtag WIWTK on social media. That's hashtag #WIWTK. For more information on Stride and online education, visit stridelearning.com. I'm your host, Kevin P. Chavous. Thank you for joining What I Want To Know.
Jes Wolfe is the CEO and chairwoman of Rebel Girls, a global brand dedicated to helping raise the most inspired and confident generation of girls through books, digital media, experiences, and community.
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What I Want to Know
In this podcast, you will hear from leaders in education as we talk through learning solutions for homeschool, online school, education pathways, and topics tailored specifically to online students and parents.