Sponsored: How to Encourage Girls Into Tech: Enlist Their Mothers
The president of A Caspian Production creates a mother/daughter conference designed to inspire high school girls, with two panels surrounding tech. Read on to learn how you can win tickets to the SUREFIRE Girls conference below.
By Jessica Schimm (Assistant Editor, Women 2.0)
Putting on a conference that would inspire young women has been Heather Mason’s dream since she was in high school.
She’s finally living out that dream with the production of the SUREFIRE Girls conference.
Mason is the president and owner of A Caspian Production, a company that is an idea factory for conferences. She is the director and producer behind the mother/daughter conference, an event aimed to inspire and motivate high school girls, which will take place in Santa Monica, California Saturday, Oct. 12.
The panels of the conference, for girls ages 14-19, range in topics from positive body-image, to financial advice, to managing friendships, to social media literacy and women in STEM.
Why a Conference for High School Girls?
So why did Mason want to put on a conference for high school girls?
She didn’t want to leave the success of teenage girls up to serendipity, as she felt three of the biggest influencers in her life, a retired Miss America Pageant coach, her history teacher and her debate coach, had come about more or less by happenstance. Leaving inspirational encounters up to happenstance was of concern to Mason who attributes much of her successful start to the advice of her mentors.
“I just kept thinking, this was serendipity, that I was able to [have these people come into my life and influence me], and yet why are we all relying on serendipity when it comes to the lives of our teenage girls?” Mason said. “We’re hoping that the collective village they run into in their teenage lives is a positive influence. But we can do something about that.”
Mason hopes that girls will come out of the single day event with positivity, confidence and resources, all of which help prepare for a successful future.
In fact, the name SUREFIRE, means bound for success. Mason chose it after looking it up on Oprah’s website.
“I wanted it to sound powerful and actionable,” Mason said. “I loved the idea that you know, it had fire in it, because fire is actually hot, passionate -it has life.”
The name then led to the other two spinoff brands, Spitfire, for preteens and Wildfire, for college-age women. The idea is to eventually have the Wildfire girls mentor Surefire girls and the Surefire girls mentor the Spitfire girls, adding that most teenage girls are more likely to be inspired and take in what 20 year olds say than middle-aged women.
As a result, Mason has lined up many young women to speak on the panels.
Addressing Social Media Presence
Asha K, a TV host and personality (MTV, thisweekin.com), will be speaking on one of the panels regarding social media. Mason is hoping to use this panel as a vehicle to also impart a consciousness and responsibility surrounding social media.
“I felt it was really critical to talk about because then we would be able to sneak some vegetables in there of what is appropriate online,” Mason said. “And also if you are going to be online how do you craft your story, and what do you want to say?”
Mason added that like reading and writing, managing your online profile will become another skill that future generations to come will have to learn, Mason said.
“The one thing I’ve continually been struck by, is that these girls, from the time they were born, pretty much, now have a digital tail. We didn’t have that. I didn’t have that. So they’re digitally archived forever already.”
Additionally the panel will address how to start businesses and ‘brand’ yourself online, from online magazines to blogging, and YouTube personalities.
A Sally Jobs and a Suzie Gates
Social media is not the only component of tech SUREFIRE Girls will address. The panel “Geek is Chic” is also lined up with young women in tech careers.
“A Sally Jobs and a Suzie Gates, that’s what we’re going for,” Mason said.
Coding can equal creativity Mason said. She hopes that seeing some of these women in STEM fields will inspire the girls, starting with a 21-year-old who is passionate about rocket science.
“My enthusiasm for tech and for how a girl could aspire to becoming an entrepreneur in that realm and how much it’s shaping our daily lives. I really want women and girls to take an ownership in how that’s being constructed,” Mason said. “That we’re not just letting this be constructed for us or around us, that we’re taking an active role in doing it.”
Mothers + Daughters
Though mothers and daughters will be split up in different panels, Mason is bringing them together for the keynote speaker, Betty Degeneres.
“I had read her book a long time ago, loved it, loved Ellen and the message of acceptance,” Mason said. “It’s about Ellen coming out, but it’s a very universal message. It’s what happens when your daughter isn’t the daughter you thought you were going to have,” Mason said. “And yet, how beautiful that can be.”
When planning the focus for the mother’s side of the conference, the main focus for parents was tech.
“Technology has become, I would say, one of the biggest pressure points and fear areas of parents, because it has a dark side. It has a good side, but it also has a lot of dangers, Mason said. “It’s changing so fast, that it’s extremely hard to keep up with.”
She chose Randi Zuckerberg who is also a mother and founder and CEO of Zuckerberg media, to come speak to the mothers in the audience about technology. The first 200 who sign up for the conference will get a copy of her book.
Another panel for parents will discuss how to help parents better communicate with their teens. The panel will also focus on media influences in general, and how media influences how girls see themselves and shape their ambitions. Check out the rest of the panel line up.
Want to attend the SUREFIRE Girls conference with your daughter? Tell us why you want to go in the comments below and three lucky readers will get a mother/daughter combo ticket!
Jessica Schimm (@JessicaSchimm) is the assistant editor at Women 2.0. She is a recent graduate of San Francisco State where she earned a B.A. in journalism and was the editor-in-chief of SF State’s Her Campus chapter. She has a strong interest in women’s issues and writes about them on her blog Women Who Run San Francisco.