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New Research Reveals Importance of Girl-Serving Organizations

March 5, 2014

Simmons recently hosted a conversation among several girl-serving organizations in Massachusetts, to discuss findings from a research project that looks at career aspirations of middle school girls.

“Dreaming Big” is a collaborative research project between Simmons College and the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts. The first phase of the research was released in November 2012, using data from more than 1,600 middle school students in New England, New York, and Pennsylvania. The data was released during a 2012 conference at Simmons, which was attended by more than 100 educators and advocates from 54 girl-serving organizations.

Phase two of the “Dreaming Big” project included the collection of additional data from more than 300 girls of color from members of five girl-serving organizations: Science Club for Girls; Strong Women Strong Girls; Girls’ LEAP; Big Sister Association of Greater Boston; and Investing in Girls Alliance. During a Feb. 26 discussion with leaders of those organizations, Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts Director of Council Initiatives and Research Karyn Martin, and Simmons College professors Mary Shapiro and Diane Grossman explained the preliminary findings, which they hope will help to address what is commonly called the “leaky pipeline” for women and leadership. The “leaky pipeline” shows that while women enter the workforce at the same rate as, and often with higher education levels than, men they tend to “leak” out of the path to leadership in larger numbers than their male counterparts due to a variety of social, organizational, and personal factors.

“The data in this research project confirms the power and importance of girl-serving organizations,” said Shapiro. “What we want to do next, is use the data to show others how these and other organizations can help to reverse the “leaky pipeline” and in doing so, help to improve our overall economy with more, qualified women leaders.”


Complete findings from phase two of the research will be released later this summer. Preliminary findings that were shared Feb. 26 included:

  • By middle school, girls of color are beginning to make career decisions, but are lacking helpful information, just as girls who are white. In the absence of career advice coming from parents and schools, girl-serving organizations have taken up that effort.
  • Girls of color have different career aspirations and career goals than girls who are white. Girls of color pay less attention to social messages about what they can and cannot do as working adults, and are more likely to be told to not pursue a particular career than girls who are white.
  • Girls of color are more likely to expect to keep working after they have children, than girls who are white.
  • A Nov. 14, 2014 conference is planned for participating girl-serving organizations to convene and discuss next steps in how best to use the research to guide their programming efforts.
Pictured above: Members of Girl Serving Organizations and Simmons partners at Wednesday's meeting.