The Rise of the Smart Girl

Over the past few years I’ve become increasingly aware of a positive shift in how women are perceived within pop culture, on social networking and within society as a whole. Every day I can see more and more positive role models for young women within the media and on newsreels and on the covers of magazines on the shelves.

Now, before you switch off reading, this is not going to be a feminist rant on the decades of oppression that women have been subjected to, or the never ending double standards that women are held to on a daily basis. Don’t worry! There are plenty of blogs of that ilk out there already which you can easily find with just a quick google search.

Instead, I’d like to look at the rise of the smart girl and some of the empowering websites I have come across that celebrate this. There has been a phase shift from the ‘girls-gone-wild-pretty-but-dumb’ female that seemed to be the norm during my formative years. Instead, we are increasingly being presented with positive images of women whose worth lies in much more than their looks and ability to smile sexily from the pages of a magazine. Don’t get me wrong – that image still exists out there. But I’m happy to see a lot less of them, and a lot more of the ‘smart girl’.

A few months ago I came across the wonderful website Smart Girls At The Party which was founded by, amongst others, the fantastic Amy Poehler.

Meredith Walker, Amy Miles, and Amy Poehler created the web series “Smart Girls at the Party” which has won a Webby Award and has been recognized by SXSWEducation and Common Sense Media for its inspiring content. However, Poehler and Walker were not content with merely creating empowering shows for young women, they wanted to create a community as well. And so, Smart Girls At The Party was born. It’s an informative, empowering, inspiring and fun place that I wish had existed when I was a teenage girl.

Another fantastic website that encourages, empowers and also brings a laugh is the Hellogiggles community. HelloGiggles is a positive online community for women (although men are always welcome!) covering a wide and varied range of subjects and all meant to inspire a smile. Again, this was founded by three women who have been within the media for a number of years – Zooey Deschanel, Molly McAleer and Sophia Rossi.

These are just two of my favourites, and there are thankfully many more out there, encouraging the smarter side of women rather than the ‘pretty and sexy’ side.

In our daily lives, we can see inspiring women (Smart Girls) active in using their voice for positive action, from becoming ambassadors and advocates for charities and humanitarian causes to building their own businesses. Just a quick browse through TED and you will be met with a host these fantastic women.

I want to share some of my favourite Smart Girls…

Jessica Jackley (Kiva and ProFounder)

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Jackley was the co-founder and CEO of ProFounder and co-founder of Kiva, the world’s first p2p microlending website. As if that wasn’t enough, Jessica is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a 2011 World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader, and serves as an active board member on several organizations championing women, microfinance, tech, and the arts, including Opportunity International, the International Museum of Women, and Allowance for Good. She is a fantastic example of dedication, perseverance and using your knowledge and skills to bring about positive change for people around the world.

Eve Ensler
The writer of The Vagina Monologues and founder of the V-Day movement, Eve Ensler’s brutal honesty and storytelling makes you sit up and take notice. She is a champion for girls and works tirelessly to ensure girls voices are heard. Just watch the video…

Kakenya Ntaiya (TED Talk – A girl who demanded school)
The founder of the Kakenya Center for Excellence, Kakenya Ntaiya is an incredible example of the potential for change that is held within one person. Kakenya Ntaiya made a deal with her father: She would undergo the traditional Maasai rite of passage of female circumcision if he would let her go to high school. Kakenya fearlessly continued on to college, and then went on to work with her village elders to build a school for girls in her community. It’s the educational journey of one that altered the destiny of many more young women.

Leymah Gbowee

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Liberian peace and women’s rights activist Leymah Gbowee was one if the recipients of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. As war ravaged Liberia, Leymah Gbowee realized it is women who bear the greatest burden in prolonged conflicts. She began organizing Christian and Muslim women to demonstrate together, founding Liberian Mass Action for Peace and launching protests and a sex strike. Gbowee’s part in helping to oust Charles Taylor was featured in the documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell. I have just started reading Leymah’s memoir, ‘Mighty Be Our Powers’, and she writes as charismatically and beautifully and powerfully as she speaks. She is a truly inspirational woman.

Who inspires you?

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