Young women make waves – and inspire their mentoring peers in the process

by Hanita Simard
Greta Thunberg holding mic at public event

Climate change activist Greta Thunberg speaks in Berlin in 2019. By Leonhard Lenz – Own work, CC0,

Greta Thunberg, in just 3 years, has shown the world a new way of doing things, of speaking up, of making a difference. She did what no one was able to do before: at 16 years old, she got the world to talk seriously about the climate crisis. 

Just weeks after Greta started her Fridays for Future climate strikes, my 17-year-old daughter and I gathered a small group of high school girls and adult women to create Making Waves, an intergenerational community focused on advancing gender equality. 

It was born of equal measures of inspiration, frustration and anger. Inspiration from Shari Graydon and Informed Opinions’ mission to close the gender gap in public discourse by encouraging women to speak up and take the mic. Frustration that very little had changed for young women going into science and engineering programs at university. And anger that rape culture seems more firmly implanted in university life than 30 years ago when the ‘No Means No” campaign started.

Looking around, we saw there was no organization that connected the sophistication and energy of young women in high school and university, with adult women who cared profoundly about gender equality and were willing to share their skills and knowledge, and invest in young women. We wanted to bring them together to learn, practice speaking up, and support each other both inside the safe space we create, and outside in the broader world.  

Through the pandemic, we’ve continued to find ways to connect, grow, build community, and most importantly to speak up. We’ve built on the annual workshop, adding an online book club featuring expert guests who facilitate rich discussions about important topics…  The Reality Bubble: How Science Reveals the Hidden Truths that Shape our World by Ziya Tong and Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death and Hard Truths in a Northern City by Tanya Talaga have inspired lively and informative sessions. 

While our primary purpose is to encourage young women to speak up about their experiences and what matters to them, something unexpected has happened. The intergenerational synergy has inspired the adult women of Making Waves to make more change, to make bigger waves. 

“I want to grow up to be like 17-year-old Sarah,” texted one of the adults after an animated intergenerational panel.  

Young women aren’t waiting for us to start doing the work. They are just making it happen, demanding change. 

However, they appreciate being given opportunities and being mindfully mentored. When the voices and contributions of young women are truly valued, listened to, and responded to, the results are powerful. We just need to be open enough to see the world through their eyes, and be willing to join them in making change. 

We are just weeks away from our 4th Annual Making Waves Workshop, on May 1st 2022. If you know of a young woman who cares about gender equality and wants to make connections, hone her skills, and practice speaking up, invite her to join us. We welcome all self-identifying women, non-binary and gender non-conforming individuals who feel they would benefit from our conversations. 

And if investing in young women is important to you and you enjoy making waves to make a positive impact, please join us yourself! Everything we do is created with, by and for young women; there are no auditions, no waitlists and no cost.

Hanita Simard Profile Pic 

Hanita Simard is the instigator and manager of Making Waves, a cross-generational initiative to mobilize young women to embrace their own power.