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Inspiring young girls to define success on their own terms

By Simone Bresi-Ando, Special to CNN
April 30, 2013 -- Updated 1604 GMT (0004 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • I'mPOSSIBLE is a social enterprise aiming to inspire young girls of color by promoting role models
  • They have hosted platforms with leading ethnic minority professional women
  • I'mPOSSIBLE teamed up with Diane Abbott's Black Women Mean Business initiative for an event at the House of Commons
  • Earnst&Young study found that lack of role models forms one of the top barriers to female success at work

London, England (CNN) -- Female role models are a very powerful and positive image to implant into young girls' psyches. In a recent study of 1000 UK women aged 18 to 60, the lack of role-models emerged as one of the top barriers to female success in the workplace.

A mindset shift in girls cannot be achieved by inspirational Instagram memes and philosophical Facebook statuses, but by closing the gap between the success they see or have heard of, and the ideas that they hold about themselves.

Founded in 2011, I'mPOSSIBLE seeks to empower young girls and women, specifically those of color, to define success on their own terms, and inspire them through life stories of those who never lost sight of their possibilities.

Simone Bresi-Ando
Simone Bresi-Ando

Last Thursday I held the first youth edition of the I'mPOSSIBLE conversation at the UK House of Commons, in partnership with UK MP Diane Abbott.

The event was organized to commemorate the 21st anniversary of Bring Your Daughters to Work Day, which shares the same goals of giving young girls the opportunity to express how they envisage their future.

Having the chance to see parental figures in professional roles helps schoolgirls combat gender stereotypes, addresses self-esteem issues, and provides them with tangible examples of role models from their own culture and ethnicity.

Michelle Obama is a strong supporter of the day and brings over 180 children to the White House to spend the morning discovering different paths their futures may hold.

Over 37 million participants marked the day in the U.S. last year, and we took part in the only official UK event of the program, which was acknowledged by the Obamas in a personal message sent to us.

Leading by example

In its short existence I'mPOSSIBLE has already hosted numerous trailblazing professionals such as Margaret Casely-Hayford, head of legal services at John Lewis, Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, a space scientist, and Hope Powell CBE, England women's football coach.

The youth edition welcomed five successful young women of color from the worlds of media, film, and law who all shared their life stories with girls aged 12 to 18 from London schools and youth projects.

We hope that these girls, sitting in the home of the UK government, felt inspired by leading women from similar backgrounds to theirs, who faced many of the same challenges but nonetheless carved a path to success, while staying true to themselves.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Simone Bresi-Ando.

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