I Am That Girl’s mission is to “shift girl culture.” They provide safe spaces for young women — groups where they can talk about any- and everything that’s on their minds, while connecting to other girls and building friendships.
As their mission acknowledges, girls are constantly bombarded with negative messages in society and pop culture. I Am That Girl works to combat that, making positivity, acceptance, and education the norm in their curriculum.
The organization has almost 300 chapters across the country right now. Each chapter is started by a young woman who applies with I Am That Girl (IATG) to become a group leader. Through online training on leadership and IATG’s curriculum, that leader is able to create a safe space for herself and other young women in her school or community.alessia
I recently interviewed IATG Program Director Rachel McGowan for The Sirens Rise, discussing the change she’s seen IATG bring about, as well as the organization’s goals for the new year.
TSR: What made you want to be a part of IATG?
Rachel McGowan: I’d already heard of them, and I think initially the job was appealing to me, but as I got into the interview process and got to know them more, I was really impressed with how the team holds true to the core values. I felt super aligned with [the mission] and I knew the work I’d be doing would be impacting lives and have a real tangible outcome.
I oversee the entire local chapter program. The way that works is we’re really in touch with each chapter leader. Each chapter has a leader, they’re all peer-led. I manage a team that interfaces with those girls.
TSR: In what ways have you seen IATG make a difference so far?
RM: We had an event in the fall, in October, where we had 300 of our girls fly out to L.A where we’re based. We had a big, day-long event, called Girl 2016; like, a TED Talk meets a Justin Bieber concert. Because our community is so large, we don’t always get to hear their stories and see the way it’s making a difference. That, for me, was one of the biggest, most tangible ways that we got to see that this really impacts their lives. So many of them have been friends online for years, and this was their first opportunity getting to meet in person because they live across the country from each other.
Beyond that, we constantly get emails and comments about how this organization has changed their lives. Our goal is that every girl will leave our program feeling like she’s enough and feeling that sense of agency in her own life. We get testimonials and comments about that all the time, and we get to see our girls go on to do amazing things — get hired for cool companies, or start their own companies. It’s really evident that the increase in their self-esteem and their self-confidence impacts the rest of their life.
TSR: If someone wants to start a chapter, how does it work? Does IATG mentor them along the way?
RM: They apply, we interview them, and we walk them through it every step of the way. We have a leadership training that they go through that’s all virtual. I have interns and employees who work with the engagement aspect of checking in with them pretty frequently, initially, and then after they’ve launched their chapter, we check in with them once a month. We also have somebody from my team virtually show up for their first meeting, which we call a chapter launch, so that we can help co-lead with them. It’s a good way to show teamwork and collaboration, but also help set the tone so they know how we talk and lead activities.
TSR: How did your organization connect with Alessia Cara?
RM: About 80% of our funding comes from brand partnerships, so the way our networking and community works is we have a lot of really cool relationships with influencers. I think it was through Def Jam, her record label, that somebody found out about us. She was really interested in finding an organization that had a similar message to some of her songs; in particular, it was a partnership with her launched around her song “Scars To Your Beautiful.”
We love her because she talks the talk, but walks the walk as well. She’s such an influence to young girls within our target demographic, and we really look up to her and see that she’s making so many statements — she stopped wearing makeup at big events, she has this style that’s completely hers, and she’s not assimilating to what the industry expects of her. Our girls really gravitate towards role models like that.
It’s been really awesome. We had such an uptick in our chapter applications. We got to send girls to her concerts all around the country because she’s gifted us tickets. It’s been such a beautiful partnership; she’s a wonderful human and a hardworking artist.
TSR: What are IATG’s goals for the new year, especially with this new political environment?
RM: We so believe in respectfully disagreeing and we want to represent all girls, not just one type of girl. From an outside perspective, we do tend to stay non-partisan because we want to make sure that everyone feels safe in our community. That said, candidly, it’s been a hard reality. For those of us who work with women and girls, who work towards equality and giving women a voice and, beyond that, just helping make girls feel good about themselves — our strategic goals were intact before the election results. We’re even more relevant, I would say, now.
We have goals and hopes of offering more in-person events; the event in October was very impactful for our girls. Honestly, we did that because they were asking for it. They wanted opportunities to be together. We want to provide more of that. We’re hoping to create another deeper layer of online community where the girls can connect more personally and more consistently.
I’m super passionate about deepening the content of our curriculum to where we really do talk about things that matter and give voice to topics that, maybe, are typically a little more taboo. I’d love to just continue to be that voice and talk about things that our girls are really experiencing, and just to have more representation in our topics – depression, sex and sexuality, mental health, suicide. I want to provide more resources so that they can be even more educated, and then that will lead to a stronger sense of agency.
It’s a growth year for us. We want to grow the organization and our community.
Thank you, Rachel, for taking the time to share the IATG story with us. We will always need organizations like these.
For more on I Am That Girl, visit their official website.