Benefit aims to help employees' daughters get an edge for college
College application season can be a stressful and expensive time for parents and students alike. As a result, a growing number of employers are offering benefits to assist parents of college-age children — ranging from student loan repayment to college savings plans and tuition reimbursement.
But Girls with Impact is taking a different approach to preparing for college — and real estate brokerage Houlihan Lawrence, electric company Eversource Energy and manufacturer Stanley Black & Decker are already on board. The non-profit runs a 12-week after-school mentorship program for teenage girls who want to learn entrepreneurial skills before college. Employers can subsidize tuition or scholarships for Girls with Impact if workers choose to enroll their children.
“The program helps [students] refine what their real strengths and career interests are. Colleges, kind of like the workforce, don't see that many girls with this kind of business background and it's just giving them a huge leg up,” says Jennifer Openshaw, founder and CEO of Girls with Impact.
Girls who complete the program, on average, could receive college scholarships of about $110,000, she adds.
Girls with Impact was founded in 2017, an outgrowth of Openshaw’s experiences at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where there was an interest in promoting more women to leadership roles, she says.
“It really dawned on us that it’s a long path, and that it was faster and smarter to focus on the root of the solution, which is the next generation, rather than the root of the problem, which is [the culture] we see in corporate America today,” she says. “So we decided to better equip and re-train the next generation of women so that they can actually lead from the top.”
As part of the program, girls receive one-on-one mentoring sessions with female entrepreneurs and business professionals. This gives them an opportunity to learn important skills from employees who are passing on their knowledge and experience to the next generation, says Openshaw.
Employees also have the opportunity to become volunteer mentors for the program, an option that is appealing to millennials and younger workers, Openshaw says. Ultimately, the program wants to help more women gain their footing in corporate America, she adds.
“Our program provides a way for employees to share their knowledge and make a difference for young women, and by doing that they're staying connected to their employer who’s providing this opportunity,” she says.