Encouraging Girls To Dream Big

A Message from Gov. Gina Raimondo - Encouraging Girls to Dream Big

A Message from Governor Gina M. Raimondo 

Women and girls are our nation’s most under-utilized resource. As our state’s first woman governor, I find myself saying that a lot. You know the statistics- women make up approximately half of the population, yet far more than half of our leaders are men. The Washington Post noted last year that only 24 of Fortune’s 500 most influential companies in the nation are led by women. And according to The Atlantic, only about 30 percent of small business owners across the country are women.

In government, the numbers are no more encouraging. In Rhode Island’s General Assembly, only 31 women are currently serving out of 113 total seats.

I’m proud to be one of six female governors currently serving across the country, but only six women acting as statewide executives across all fifty states is far too few.

When I became Governor, I pledged to make Rhode Island a place of opportunity for all. There are certainly a number of very talented women doing amazing things in our state. But when half of the population doesn’t see enough people like them represented in business or government, it’s a sign that we still have work to do.

So how do we get more women in leadership roles? We start young. Girls need role models in order to succeed. That’s why I created the Governor for a Day essay contest in honor of Women’s History Month last year. I invited middle school girls from all over the state to write in, telling me what they would do in my shoes, for a chance to come visit me at the State House and meet with women leaders. The response was overwhelming; the submissions were incredibly mature and passionate. We received almost 600 essays, focusing on everything from the foster care system to climate change.

Michaela from Scituate wrote about making all schools handicap-accessible, saying, “all kids should have the ability to attend their local school with their neighborhood friends.” Riley from Chariho proposed starting an anti-bullying campaign, writing, “Wouldn’t it be really amazing if every school in Rhode Island had a day when not a single hateful or hurtful word was uttered?” And Ibiolatiwa from Pawtucket wrote about helping single parents, saying, “We should never forget women who are in tough situations involving violence or neglect.”

My staff and I were so impressed by the issues that Rhode Island girls chose to tackle in their essays. We had so many talented essayists that it was a challenge to choose a winner. But in the end, we decided to invite Khatima Bulmer from Newport to become Governor for a Day.

Khatima visited the State House on Earth Day last year. She met with many women in leadership roles, including Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, Senators Erin Lynch and Gayle Goldin and Representatives Anastasia Williams and Deborah Fellela. We planted a tree at her school, attended a groundbreaking ceremony and helped to announce Water Quality Protection and Restoration Grants at an event in Roger Williams Park. I had so much fun with Khatima last year, and I know she’ll go on to do great things. And, I’m happy to report that my office is now accepting submissions for this year’s Governor for a Day contest. I can’t wait to meet this year’s contest winner and spend another eventful day together.

For more information on this year’s Governor for a Day contest and how to enter, please visit http://www.governor.ri.gov/newsroom/essay/.

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Avatar About the Author: The Rhode Island Small Business Journal is a printed monthly magazine and an online resource for the aspiring and start-up entrepreneur and small business owner.

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