Empowering Girls, Our mission

The Power of Teen Girls

The Power of Teen Girls

Malala Yousafzai survived a 2012 school bus attack and went on to become the youngest person to receive a Nobel Peace Prize.

Greta Thunberg skipped school to increase awareness about global warming. She was honored as Time Magazine’s 2019 Person of the Year.

Emma Gonzalez survived the shooting in Parkland, Florida. Due to pressure from Emma and her fellow students, Florida passed a bill titled the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.

These are just three of the more well-known teen activists who’ve gone beyond the call of duty to make our world a better place. But have you heard of Angelina Lue, Zee Thomas, or Tiana Day?

Angelina, Zee, and Tiana

Angelina, of Los Altos, CA, started Teens Fighting Covid-19, a GoFundMe campaign designed to help address the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). As of this writing, her campaign has donated 25,000 surgical masks and 200 N95’s to more than seventeen hospitals and health care centers in the Bay Area, NYC, the Bronx, and the Navajo Nation.

Zee Thomas, a 15-year-old from Nashville, organized a march in her city to protest the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Zee had never been to a protest before, but 10,000 people joined her.

Tiana Day of San Ramon, CA, led a protest march across the Golden Gate Bridge earlier in June. She thought maybe fifty people would show up. Thousands came. In an article in the New York Times, Tiana said, “I have always had this, like, boiling thing, this boiling passion in my body to want to make a change in the world.”

In the same article, the reporter, Jessica Bennett, posed a question to another teen, Shayla Turner. “Why do you think we are seeing so many young women leading?”

Shayla, who has been campaigning to remove the police from Chicago’s public schools, answered:

“I want to see an entire revolution led by youth. We have the power, and we have the voices.”

A Few More

There are so many examples of the power of teen girls to affect positive change in the world. A few more:

Trisha Prabhu, who, at 15, created ReThink, a patented technology and an effective way to detect and stop online hate.”

Jamie Margolin, who, “frustrated by the fact that youth voices were almost always ignored in the conversation around climate change and the profound impact that it would have on young people,” started Zero Hour, a national day of mass action, led by youth.

At the end of the New York Times article, Zee stated: “my main goal, as a person and as an upcoming activist, is to make sure that people know that things will change. Eventually.”

Download 5 Ways Storytelling Empowers Teen Girls.

how fathers can help their daughters succeed
Empowering Girls

How Fathers Can Help Their Daughters Succeed

father reading to daughter

How Fathers Can Help Their Daughters Succeed

In a 2016 article for Glamour, President Obama wrote about his commitment to being the kind of father who set the bar high for the other men his daughters would encounter as they became adults.

The ways fathers can help their daughters succeed, he wrote, include:

  • Taking on the responsibility of fighting sexism
  • Being aware of how gender stereotypes pervade our society
  • Speaking up when you see a gender double standard
  • Modeling an equal relationship with your partner
  • Working to change the culture that limits the prospects of women and girls

The relationship a girl has with her father is extremely important to how well she succeeds in later life. Fathers set the tone for their daughters’ expectations of men. A father who shows his daughter how a man should behave increases the chance that she will demand equal treatment in her adult relationships.

Fathers’ Special Role in Their Daughters’ Lives

As Obama wrote about his two daughters, “It’s important that their dad is a feminist, because now that’s what they expect of all men.”

Fathers can help their daughters succeed by encouraging them, believing in them, and having frank discussions about sexism. As Jessica Stillman wrote in “5 Ways Fathers Can Raise Strong, Successful Daughters:”

“In a world where women’s voices are frequently undervalued or even silenced, the simple act of discussing important topics openly and respectfully with your daughter can teach her a valuable lesson — you are entitled to speak your mind and your opinion is as valid and valued as any other.”

June 21 is Father’s Day

This Sunday, June 21, 2020, marks the 110th anniversary of Father’s Day. The man who inspired Father’s Day, William Jackson Smart, was the twice-widowed father of fourteen children. His daughter, Sonora Smart Dodd, commented that “He was both father and mother to me and my brothers and sisters.” A single father at the age of 56, his youngest child only 7 or 8 at the time, Smart “exemplified fatherly love and protection.”

To the over 70 million fathers in the United States, I wish you a Happy Father’s Day this Sunday. To the fathers of girls, remember how important you are to helping your daughters succeed. May we continue to move toward, in Obama’s words, a country “where every single child can make of her life what she will.”

See also: Why Teen Girls Lose Confidence: What Parents Can Do and Ten Ways to Help Girls in 2020

Download 5 Ways Storytelling Empowers Teen Girls.

Ten Coming-of-Age Games Starring Strong Girls and Women
Empowering Girls, Women in Animation

Coming-of-Age Video Games Starring Strong Girls and Women

By Claire Graman

Coming-of-age stories capture what is perhaps the most difficult part of life, the hard transition from childhood to adulthood. In this genre, hero(ine)s discover their identity, test relationships, and navigate an often cruel and nonsensical world. Video games make this journey more immediate, as you guide your protagonist on their quest.

In these coming-of-age video games starring strong girls and women, players are active heroines, shaping their destinies on epic adventures.

Horizon zero dawn

Horizon Zero Dawn

This action adventure game takes place in a distant future where humans live in tribal societies while robotic beasts roam the land. You play as Aloy, a young woman raised as an outcast, as she uncovers her mysterious past, hunts robots, and saves the world. Available for PlayStation 4 and Windows. Common Sense Media rates this 13+.

Life is strange

Life is Strange

In this narrative-driven game, you play as Max, a high school girl in a coastal Oregon town who finds she has the power to control time. Max is a fully developed character with relationships, a past, and hobbies. An added bonus is the central theme of female friendship. Available for PlayStation 3 and 4, Xbox 260 and One, and Windows. Common Sense Media rates this 16+.


Child of light

Child of Light

In this fairy tale role-playing game, the princess takes up a sword and controls her own destiny after being transported to a fantastical world. With unique characters, a watercolor world, and an outstanding soundtrack by Béatrice Martin, this game will leave lasting impression. Available for Nintendo Wii U, PlayStation 3 and 4, Xbox 360 and One, and Windows. Common Sense Media rates this 10+.




In this widely-acclaimed game, you play as a young woman climbing a mountain. This simple premise provides a powerful parallel for the heroine’s own battle with depression and anxiety. Available for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows. Common Sense Media rates this 10+.


Gone Home

Gone Home

This ground-breaking narrative game has simple controls, but complex themes, as it explores teen identity and sexuality. Available for Linux, Mac, and Windows. Common Sense Media rates this 15+.


Falcon age

Falcon Age

In this virtual reality game, you play as a young woman fighting a colonial power with the help of her falcon. With themes of cultural identity, freedom, and friendship, this game is a hidden gem. Available PlayStation 4 and Virtual Reality. Common Sense Media rates this 13+.




Named after the children’s game, Oxenfree follows a group of teenagers on one last camping trip before college. Unfortunately, they are coping with the recent death of a friend. Even more unfortunately, the abandoned island they’re camping on seems to be very haunted. Available for Mac, Windows, and Xbox One. Common Sense Media rates this 14+.


What remains of Edith Finch

What Remains of Edith Finch

In this interactive story inspired by magical realism, you play as the titular Edith Finch, a young woman exploring the history of a family curse and how it impacts her own life. Available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows. Common Sense Media rates this 13+.




In this fighting, fantasy game, you play as Ajna, a teenage girl trying to avenge the death of her father. With charming animation and a story steeped in Southeast Asian culture and mythology, Indivisible showcases what indie games can offer. Available for Linux, Mac, Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Common Sense Media rates this 13+.


Broken age

Broken Age

Broken Age tells the stories of two teenagers “seeking to break the tradition in their lives.” Vella is a young woman fated to be sacrificed to a monster, while Shay is a young man adrift on a mysterious spaceship. With a clever story, top voice-acting talent, and engaging puzzles, Broken Age is well worth exploring. Available for Linux, Mac, and Windows. Common Sense Media rates this 13+.


Download 5 Ways Storytelling Empowers Teen Girls.


woman-made films
Empowering Girls, Women in Film & TV

Woman-Made Films About Mental Health

listen when girls talkMay is Mental Health Awareness Month

To increase awareness of the fact that, according to NAMI, one in five teens experiences some form of mental illness, I’ve put together a list of female-directed, co-directed, written or co-written films that deal with mental illness, whether as the central theme or in relation to the plot.

Each one of these woman-made films about mental health presents an opportunity for parents and their teen daughters to discuss the impact of mental illness on families and communities. For example, in Infinitely Polar Bear, a father with bipolar disorder becomes the main caregiver for his daughters while his wife moves away to study for her MBA. This causes the family to negotiate both the absence of the mother and the father’s illness. In Sweetie, the mental illness of one sister dominates the family. In Horse Girl, a young woman’s life turns upside down as her psychosis deepens and as a result, her behavior becomes more and more inexplicable.

The way in which media portrays women and girls is crucial to their mental and emotional health. “The specific mental health consequences of extended exposure to portrayals of unrealistic and unhealthy behaviors of girls and women may not be clear, but some advocates see enough data to cause concern and to take action” Psychiatric News, 12/2010.

Woman-made films

It’s important to watch women-made films about this topic. The way in which mental illness has been defined, and therefore depicted in films, has traditionally been through the male perspective. Women-made films promote a new understanding of how we recognize, understand and treat mental illness.


  • Sweetie, 1989, dir. Jane Campion, rated R
  • An Angel at My Table, 1990, dir. Jane Campion, rated R
  • Eve’s Bayou, 1997, dir. Kasi Lemmons, rated R
  • The Virgin Suicides, 1999, dir. Sofia Coppola, rated R
  • 28 Days, 2000, Betty Thomas, rated PG-13
  • Little Miss Sunshine, 2006, co-dir. Valerie Faris, rated R
  • Lars & the Real Girl, 2007, screenplay by Nancy Oliver, rated PG-13
  • Frozen 1 & 2, 2013 & 2019, co-dir. Jennifer Lee, rated PG
  • Infinitely Polar Bear, 2014, dir. Maya Forbes, rated R
  • Welcome to Me, 2014, dir. Shira Piven, rated R
  • Horse Girl, 2020, screenplay by Jeff Baena and Alison Brie, rated R


Many more films about mental illness exist than the ones listed here, and more than a few of those feature women and girls. Such a lack of female directors exists that it took some time to compile the list for this blog post!

Download 5 Ways Storytelling Empowers Teen Girls.


why girls lose confidence
Empowering Girls

Why Teen Girls Lose Confidence: What Parents Can Do

My story of losing confidence

When I was ten years old, I wanted to be a musician, a dancer, a mom, a poet, and an explorer. Only three years later, the bright future I’d imagined for myself seemed unattainable. By the age of thirteen, I’d become acutely aware of the limitations our culture places on women and girls. Even though my parents never told me I couldn’t do something because I was a girl, I felt the weight of the patriarchy pushing me down.

As a teenager and young woman, that weight seriously undermined my confidence. In my early teens, I still played music, wrote songs and poems, took dance lessons, and went on trips. As I got older, however, I absorbed society’s message that unless I was better than everyone else, especially boys, I might as well give up. My self-esteem took years to overcome.

What parents can do

The reasons why teen girls lose confidence in early adolescence is better understood today than when I was a teen. However, it still accounts for high rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and self-harming behavior. Today’s teen girls must cope with pressures unheard of during my adolescence. These include social media, texting, and never-ending images of Photo-shopped beauty.

I was encouraged when I read “Girls’ Confidence Plummets Starting at Age 8: Here’s How to Keep Her Confidence Strong” at one of my favorite websites, A Mighty Girl. Authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman have written The Confidence Code for Girls (HarperCollins, 2018), a book that “teaches girls to embrace risk, deal with failure, and be their most authentic selves” (quoted from the book’s description).

Here are some key points, which I’ve quoted from the article:


  • Risk-taking: “It’s impossible to build confidence staying in a comfort zone, only doing what you are already good at doing.”
  • A social media compromise: “Parents should insist that their daughters follow four women who are working in areas that interest them and then see where that takes them.”
  • For fathers: “We’ve learned that dads are better at accurately gauging their child’s confidence than moms are, regardless of gender.”
  • Be an imperfect role model: “Show your daughter what it means to screw up and then recover from it. If we are busy trying to be perfect, that is what our daughters will most notice, no matter how many books on confidence we hand her.”
  • Positive thinking: “Curbing rumination, catastrophizing and negative thinking is equally essential.”


The good news is that girls can and do recover from their adolescent confidence deficits. For example, once I accepted that I didn’t need to be perfect, I tried all kinds of things, from making my own videos to writing books to starting a business. I made huge mistakes, had amazing adventures, and succeeded—but not all, or even half of the time. I learned the most from my mistakes.

As the authors of The Confidence Code for Girls state, “Confidence hinges on action. And that process, which usually involves some struggle and failure as well, is what creates more confidence.”

What new thing will you try today?

Download 5 Ways Storytelling Empowers Teen Girls.

Girls Design and Play Their Own Video Games
Empowering Girls, Women in Animation

Girls Design and Play Their Own Video Games

We had fun and learned some of the basics of computer commands during Scratch Programming for Girls on February 20, 2020 at Ophelia’s Place. Students created their own “chase” games using the free program Scratch. Choosing from motion, looks, sound, backdrops and more, students used their imaginations and creativity to animate characters that ranged from squirrels to a loaf of bread!

The first computer programmer: Ada Lovelace

Claire Graman led the class, starting off with a short PowerPoint presentation. Claire showed the girls photos of Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, and Melba Ray Mouton, head mathematician and programmer at


Claire Graman at Ophelia’s Place

NASA, who coded the spaceship trajectories in the 1960s. Then, Claire defined programming, which is, simply put, telling a computer what to do. She demonstrating basic If/Then/Else logic, reminding the class that computers aren’t very smart, and that they should be patient and try again if something didn’t work right away.

Girls Design and Play

The girls started out creating a sprite, and then added commands to make something happen to the sprite based on certain conditions. For example, if the player presses the left arrow, the sprite moves to the left. The characters ran, leaped, flipped, glided and chased. Much hilarity ensued!IMG_4211

Our next offering at Ophelia’s Place will be Digital Photography on May 6 at 4:30 pm. More details coming soon!




Download 5 Ways Storytelling Empowers Teen Girls.

flipbook animation
Empowering Girls, Women in Animation

Flipbook Animation Class at Ophelia’s Place

On January 28, 2020, Girls’ Voices Matter lit up the classroom at Ophelia’s Place! It was rainy and cold outside, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of the girls who attended GVM’s first Flipbook Animation Class. Using Post-It notes, numbered pre-made blank flipbooks, light-powered tracing boards, and colored pens, students made their own flipbooks, drawing a 2-second, 24 frame animated flower.

IMG_4163Introduction to animation

Claire Graman started us off with an introduction to animation. Using the famous example of “the horse question”—in 1876, Edward Muybridge used a series of photographs to prove that during a gallop, all four of a horse’s legs left the ground at the same time—Claire explained how a series of moving pictures, whether film or drawings, creates the illusion of movement. From the very first animated films to video games, Claire told the class that women have always been involved in this art form, and that it was once believed that women were better colorists than men, since women have better color vision!

Beginning flipbook animation

The girls started out with a warm-up exercise of drawing a moving dot, then a stick figure waving its arm. They then started working on the flipbook, using LED tracing boards to carefully draw each frame. In the flipbook, a flower pops out of the ground; the girls drew red, pink, and purple flowers emerging from green grass.

At the end of class, each girl finished her flipbook with a cover, and bound it with ribbons.


Claire Graman giving introduction.

We had a wonderful time, and look forward to teaching our next class at Ophelia’s Place, Scratch Game Programming for Girls!









Download 5 Ways Storytelling Empowers Teen Girls.

ten ways to help girls in 2020
Empowering Girls

Ten Ways to Help Girls in 2020



Here are ten ways to help girls in the New Year.

  1. Be a role model. Insist that women be promoted into positions of power. If you are an employer, make sure women have access to the same opportunities as men.
  2. Volunteer at a non-profit that helps girls. Ophelia’s Place, Girl Scouts, National Girls Collaborative, and Girls Who Code all accept volunteers.
  3. Listen when girls talk. “We live in a world that historically celebrates and elevates experiences and processes that relate to men—while undermining and shaming those that do not.” – 2020forgirls.
  4. Stand up for girls. Challenge sexism when you encounter it. Call out degrading comments when you hear them. Don’t just let them slide.
  5. Get the global perspective. Learn what other countries are doing to help empower girls. Girl Rising, Global Girls Glow, The Malala Fund, and Campaign for Female Education help girls around the world.
  6. Share your stories. Stories are how we connect and learn. Letting a girl know that you, too, struggled with something can help her persevere when things get difficult.
  7. Support girls-only spaces. Without gender-based competition, girls are allowed to be center stage.
  8. Choose kindness. Tell your daughter, niece, sister, or mother how much you appreciate them.
  9. Encourage girls to take risks and make mistakes. When girls have the same opportunities as boys to explore, get messy, and experiment, they grow stronger and more confident. They are far more likely to think for themselves instead of accepting someone else’s opinion.
  10. Let girls be girls! Girls have their own way of approaching problems, communicating, and learning. Celebrate their unique abilities and intelligence. “Like a girl” should not be an insult!

Download 5 Ways Storytelling Empowers Teen Girls.

Empowering Girls, Our mission



At Girls’ Voices Matter, our core values reflect our beliefs in the potential of every girl. We celebrate and respect teen girls. We understand their need for acceptance and their growing independence. Every teen girl needs encouragement to take on new challenges, handle stress, set goals, and develop a healthy sense of self.


  • Teamwork. Each girl is a valued part of a creative team.
  • Trust. Our students learn to trust themselves and their intuitions.
  • Courage. We create a safe space for our students to explore what interests them.
  • Creativity. We believe that every girl has talent.
  • It’s ok to make mistakes. Mistakes are how we learn, grow, and discover new things.

Our list of core values reflects our mottos: “Every girl matters” and “We believe in girls.” We truly believe that the creative potential of teen girls is a major force for good in the world.

Download 5 Ways Storytelling Empowers Teen Girls.