I’ve never been one to remain silent in a room. My ideas have always been heard. I attribute this ability to share my voice to my parents, teachers and mentors, as well as to my education, as they all played a pivotal role in creating the professional woman I am today.

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I found my voice at a young age because I’ve always been told to have confidence in my ideas and that my ideas matter. My education was based on the motto of Women Learning, Women Leading. We all have a story to tell and we all want to be heard. And as a girl, your voice is important.

But working in high-tech, I can’t help but notice how many women suppress their voices. As Linda Bernardi recently said, “Women, if you want to be heard, you’ve got to speak up. Roar!” We can all “lean in” and help each other, but that first step needs to start with our sisters, daughters, nieces and friends in their youth. We need to influence girls when they’re young and before they have the potential to lose their voices.

On “losing voice”

Professor Carol Gilligan, author of the landmark feminist book, In a Different Voice, discovered a phenomenon among young girls known as “losing voice.” This refers to a sharp drop in confidence and social approval many girls encounter between childhood and womanhood. When there is too much resistance to their ideas, girls tend to simply give up trying to be heard.

And this happens when girls are on the verge of discovering all that the world has to offer. The Girl Scouts of America surveyed 12-year-old girls and reported that 74 percent say “improving the world around me” is their number one favorite activity. Imagine if these girls did not lose their voices. Their innovative ideas could change the world.

We need to empower every girl to find #HerVoice. Promote more female role models, encourage STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education and create programs to help girls learn that their ideas matter. It’s not going to happen overnight. But I am encouraged by the next generation of young women who want to help girls find their voices and affect social change.

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Girls driving for a difference

What do a bunch of Stanford students hope to accomplish this summer by driving an RV across America? To bring a creative, inspiring and new approach to learning about a most under-represented resource—our nation’s middle school girls.

The Girls Driving for a Difference program is a true entrepreneurial initiative. Four millennial women will take a journey of a lifetime and visit 50 diverse communities, in 38 states to help girls articulate their brightest, most impactful ideas on how to change the world. The women will accomplish this feat by teaching the girls through design thinking workshops.

What is design thinking?

Design thinking is a new approach to solving problems and building confidence. The workshops are designed to give girls the tools, inspiration and creative confidence to tackle any challenge. It also allows them to take risks, collaborate with others and respect mistakes made during the process.

The Girls Driving for a Difference team defines it as “creative process for approaching any problem. It starts with getting to know the ‘user’ and moves through steps for defining the need and challenge, brainstorming ideas, thinking of solutions, building concepts and trying them out!”

Although the process itself evolves with each class and each iteration, one popular approach breaks down creativity into five stages: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test. The important concept here is that these are not linear stages — they can and often do, overlap or even occur all at once. By visualizing the process in new ways, girls can more effectively complete each step and present their final product with confidence.

Design thinking is all about building creative confidence. Girls Driving for a Difference will teach these workshops all over the country and give a voice to the next generation of world leaders.

SAP is a proud supporter of this initiative, fueled by strong women in leadership roles, such as CMO Maggie Chan Jones, Chief Learning Officer Jenny Dearborn and VP global SME and partner marketing Meaghan Sullivan.

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New ideas, new leaders for a better world

Entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial thinking often come from unexpected places. Original perspectives disrupt the established order because these individuals approach problems from a different angle and can more clearly see a better way. And innovation comes from vocalizing these ideas.

Girls Driving for a Difference represents a brand new start for girls to learn the mechanics of productive creativity, using the principles of design thinking. From there, girls will gain the confidence to start their own companies or find amazing careers in typically male-dominated industries like high tech. And if driving a RV across America can help at least one girl find #HerVoice, we all gain a leader for a better tomorrow.

SAP giving back

To help Girls Driving for a Difference kick off their summer tour, SAP Silicon Valley played host this morning to a workshop for 25 of our employee’s daughters. Special thanks to Jenny Dearborn, Sally Lawler Kennedy and Elizabeth Martin for mentoring the girls during the workshop. Check out the Girls Driving for a Difference social channels listed on their Web site for up-to-date vlogs, photos and stories about their travels this summer.

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6 Comments

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  1. Lauren Maser

    What an amazing perspective of this incredible opportunity Ursula! SAPsv is so thankful to have had you as the driving force behind bringing Girls Driving for a Difference to SAP. You and the GDD team have made a huge difference in so many lives through this workshop. Thank you so much!

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  2. Soon Fuller

    Powerful blog Ursula! I look forward to using these tips to help empower girls to find #HerVoice and speak with confidence. We truly appreciate your efforts to provide such a rewarding workshop to daughters of our SAPsv employees!

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    1. Ursula Ringham Post author

      Thank you Soon! As you can tell, helping girls find their voices is a passion of mine. I’m glad SAP was able to share this new way of learning with our employees and their daughters.

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  3. Adeleh Toorani

    Speaking of helping female colleagues and encouraging women in IT industry, I am a member of IEEE and recently I joined Santa Clara Women in Computing Summit in Santa Clara hosted by Oracle.  How I wished we could help with such gatherings like hosting, sending speakers, etc.  I spoke to one of the organizers of the event in WIE (Women in Engineering society) and she was extremely receptive when I approached her regarding this, specially mentioning I work at SAP.  I would really appreciate if anyone can help in directing me to someone who can help organize such event and talk to WIE contact?  Since this is in Santa Clara, they prefer to keep in touch with someone in South Bay (SAP Palo Alto, I am in Dublin though 🙁 ).

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