Local Day of the Girl celebration offers advice, encouragement to girls

Photo of Local Day of the Girl celebration offers advice, encouragement to girls

Friends Hari Bhimaraju and Ashni Sheth have already accomplished a lot at the young age of 15.

Bhimaraju has been an exhibitor at the White House Science Fair when Barack Obama was president, while Sheth has helped design an app to address the issue of gender inequality in modern times, among their many accolades.

But the Peninsula teens want to ensure other girls are encouraged to follow their own calling to change the world, and to teach and learn from each other along the way. To that end, they set up their own local Day of the Girl celebration Sunday at the Los Altos Library.

Dozens of young girls from elementary to high school ages showed up to hear women leaders in varied fields including technology, fashion, the beverage industry, finance and nonprofits speak about the ups and downs along their paths.

“I feel like a lot of girls are told just very cliche things like ‘follow your dreams,’ or ‘don’t get pushed down,’ but there’s very little tangible solutions or tangible advice that’s given,” Bhimaraju said in an interview at the library Sunday.

“And I think the goal through this event was not just to tell people to be inspired, but really show them and teach them what that means and what that looks like,” she said, so girls can get “the whole story rather than just hearing these stories of success or hearing cliche statements.”

Alexandra Mysoor, the founder and CEO of Par Avion Tea, told the group of girls that she was well along the path to becoming a doctor in college before she switched career direction, and focused on the businesses that she felt more passionate about.

She encouraged the girls to not judge themselves for what they want to pursue, and to stick up for themselves.

“Be a trouble maker…it’s OK to be loud and be heard,” she said. “Always be shining. Don’t let anyone diminish your light. And likewise, show that respect back.”

For 13-year-old Carly Liao, of Palo Alto, it was inspiring to hear about a successful woman who wasn’t totally sure what she wanted to do in life, even halfway through college.

“I think that takes off a lot of the pressure to find out what you want to do in life,” she said.

“I’ve always thought, you know once you decide on a major, that’s it. But even after college people change careers all the time,” Liao said.

She also said it was helpful to hear one of the panelists speak about what it was like to disappoint family or friends she didn’t want to let down in the process of switching careers.

Sheth said girls face more obstacles and their ideas can be quickly dismissed even in a “progressive culture” because they are women, and they are young, and this event helps to strengthen their resolve.

“When you’re encouraged by other women who are going through the same thing you are, you kind of feel more prepared to take on the world,” she said.

She said she and others there have had a lot of support and opportunities for learning and growth, and she wants to ensure people like her use their privilege to help others.

In addition to a panel, the groups also did breakout sessions at small tables, where girls and women leaders chatted together about confidence, positive role models, and action.

Olivia Rodriguez, a volunteer with the Coalition of Concerned Medical Professionals in Oakland, said she told the girls they don’t have to wait to finish school to help people around them.

“They can start helping people today. They can start doing food drives, toothbrush and floss drives today,” she said.

“They’re genuinely very concerned about their future. So it was really inspiring to hear the questions of the deep concern they have for themselves, and their community, and their future,” Rodriguez said of the breakout sessions.

Emily Thompson, who manages go-to-market operations for Google’s advertising products, echoing other speakers’ sentiments, said she was happy to speak at an event organized by young girls, which in itself shows drive and determination.

“I feel like as early as women can see other positive examples of leaders, the better, as it just serves as one more thing that they can do,” she said in an interview.

“If you don’t see someone who looks like you in a position, even subconsciously you might rule yourself out. And we need to encourage women to show up for the game and to take the chance, and don’t rule themselves out.”

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