You receive your conference registration and can sign up for a favorite workshop. Which one jumps out first?
- Geek is Chic
- Red-Carpet Ready
- The U for You
- Hey Mirror: I’m Awesome
- Stand Your Ground!
- All About the Benjamins
All six of these are choices at the SUREFIRE Girls Conference, on November 11 in Salt Lake City, UT. It’s an event full of “innovative and hands-on learning workshops and amazing mainstage speakers,” for teen girls ages 15-18. In fact, the conference is BY GIRLS. Heather Mason, SUREFIRE founder, told me this is central to their philosophy: “that 40-something women can’t necessarily create the content that will be relevant for a teen-something audience without involving them at the core. We believe true empowerment happens when that generation can craft the content that is most relevant to them.”
And their content looks rad. No. That’s not the right word. That’s MY word.
This looks lit, hundo p. It’s going to be v gucci.
SUREFIRE started this in L.A. and brought the event to Utah for the first time this year. Here’s how it goes down.
They start by seeking out Ambassadors. Ambassadors are girls from the local area. They weigh in on content and vote to determine the top-ten topics featured. After they determine those topics, they seek out speakers and organizations to deliver the content. This is different than the typical conference organization which starts with a call for speakers which determines the program/agenda. Mason explained, “this way we know our content is driven by them, first and foremost. We can also ensure content is tailored to a specific region as we travel from city to city.”
The Ambassadors also help spread the word, along with local organizations. They reach out and share with other girls from all different high schools and backgrounds. In L.A., SUREFIRE included girls from 45 different high schools the first year, and 65 the second. In Utah, they have over 80% of high schools in the Salt Lake area represented. This helps hit one of their goals of girls meeting girls they’ve never met before.
“We hope they leave with friendships that might otherwise never have happened,” Mason said. They create crossroads because “every girl is at risk in her own way, and every girl deserves a chance to shine, and experience serendipitous connections.”
In Los Angeles, girls attended a workshop to help them figure out what they wanted to do in life and make a plan for it. The workshop leader, let’s call her Sue, was a little critical of the broad invitation of SUREFIRE, that it was for ALL girls.
Sue would have preferred that it be catered to at-risk girls. Directing the workshop, Sue asked the girls a question, “Has anyone asked you what you wanted to do with your life?”
The first girl raised her hand, “No,” she said. “They always expect I’ll be pregnant or shot before I graduate. But I want to become a journalist.”
Sue nods. A second girl raises her hand. “Me neither,” she says. “No one asks me because they want me to be a lawyer or financial adviser or doctor, but I want to become a hair stylist.”
For many of these girls, regardless of where they fall on the socio-economic spectrum, this becomes a life-changing event.
They learn to celebrate each other. They learn to shut down the culture that ‘scarcity breeds competition’. This is an attitude that “reinforces to women that we are each other’s foe,” Mason said.
Have you experienced that in your community, industry, or organization? Have you recognized, often in an unspoken way, the mindset that there’s only one pretty woman, or only one successful woman?
Mason has a vision of shutting this down and it’s a big-time goal of SUREFIRE: to cultivate an abundance mentality. “If we’re going to get ahead,” she explains, “this has to stop. And not only does it have to stop, but it needs to be the opposite. We need to celebrate all the women around us, because there is no fear of their awesome… we can celebrate others rather than needing to steal their light.”
She hopes that the conference helps the girls change that sentiment, giving them a chance to see the amazing things that happen when there’s culture of positivity, support, and celebration for each others’ accomplishments, rather than competition and scarcity.
Now you’re envious, right? You’re thinking, hey, I want this in my city. I want the teen girls I know to have an event as fabulous as this. Guess what? SUREFIRE wants to bring it to your city, too. Mason told me, “we would love to take this to metropolitan areas around the United States. We were built to travel!”
Is your city up next? Maybe your country? They’ve had inquiries from Israel, the UK, and Istanbul, as well as an open invitation from the UN. That is the definition of the teen slang, hundo p. Hundred Percent! Totally! The real deal. They’re always on the lookout for the next city.