Hi everyone! I’m Spiffy, your favorite interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making a difference on UN SDG 5: Gender Equality. Today I’m going to learn how mentoring provides girls with the support and empowerment they need to realize their dreams. Join me as I welcome Priyanka Jaisinghani, co-founder of Girlz,FTW. Are you ready to be inspired?
Spiffy: Welcome, Priyanka! And thanks for hopping on this interview! I’m really excited to hear about Girls,FTW! Can you start by telling us about the challenges you are addressing?
Priyanka: Thanks for much for the invite, Spiffy! We envision a world where girls have equal opportunities to work towards and achieve their dreams and build the world they want to live in. Through Girlz,FTW, our global organization, we are realizing this vision and driving gender equality on a global scale, building a community of women and girlz that support, empower and elevate each other. We support thousands of girls across 73 countries.
Spiffy: Tell me more! What motivated you to create an organization that supports global gender equality through mentorship?
Priyanka: Growing up across different cultures and countries—India, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, and the United States—equipped me with a global mindset from an early age. By the time I was 16, I witnessed India’s booming economy that struggled with poverty, Mexico’s developing economy that struggled with drugs, and the United Arab Emirate’s riches and comforts that struggled with women's equality. Throughout all my travels, I’ve witnessed that, irrespective of geography, girls face similar issues worldwide and continue to remain on unequal footing—that’s something that needs to change. It is gratifying that today, I'm building and building a better world for women: those very resources and platforms that I wish I had when I was younger.
GirlzFTW mentorship event at the headquarters of Facebook. (Image courtesy of Priyanka Jaisinghani)
Spiffy: How else is Girls,FTW working to create a more equitable world?
Priyanka: Mentorship is a two-way interaction with the ability to open doors to see new opportunities that elevate us and accelerate our growth. We believe that education and mentorship provide immeasurable access to resources that most cannot find in everyday institutions. Through our interactions, we’ve seen how providing girls with a sense of community, confidence, and support can make a world of difference. The role of a mentor doesn’t require having all the answers (and none of our mentors do). When we transcend borders, both can learn about each other’s cultures, obstacles that girls face in that region, and find new ways to tackle problems. We’re strengthening the visibility and collective voices of girls on a global scale.
Spiffy: Are there any recent initiatives you have taken up? What impact do you anticipate?
Priyanka: After understanding the challenges of our communities and the resources they crave, GirlzFTW hosted the Girlz,RTW Summit in December 2020. The summit aimed to provide girls around the globe with access to training, empowerment, and mentorship to pursue their dreams and reimagine the possibilities available to them. The 2020 Summit focused on helping girls build resilience during tough times, create supportive communities, and gain a better understanding of themselves so they can unlock their potential. Summit sessions included unlearning harmful career norms, building resilience, and communication skills for a virtual world.
Spiffy: I’m always curious how entrepreneurs manage failure. What about you, Priyanka? Can you share about an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up? What did you learn from failure?
Priyanka: After stumbling more times than I can count, I've learned to embrace failure and see it as a building block. Within Girlz,FTW, a stumbling and learning block for us was when we experienced rapid growth and started supporting women across Asia and Africa. We quickly learned that the tools and resources we created weren't one-size-fits-all. We had to stop, listen, and modify our tools and resources to support the varying levels of experience within our community. We continue to listen and learn from our community and support them in the ways they need us.
Spiffy: Before we sign off, is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Priyanka: Over the past year, we’ve transformed all available corners of our homes into new spaces for all. So much of the world gathers online, but in many of the countries that our girls live in, the infrastructure is unable to support the bandwidth and capacity for them to actively participate online, exacerbating existing inequalities. Meetings often involve technical glitches and lagged sporadic connections. For many of our girls, their cell phones are their main method to connect as laptops and devices are shared among their family members. We’re moving away from the thought of having a reliable internet connection as something that is nice to have and we’re seeing digital access as a fundamental right and key component that drives equality.
Spiffy: The more you can level the playing field, the better. I believe your story is going to inspire many of our readers to support or seek out Girlz,FTW. It’s been an absolute honor speaking with you today, Priyanka. Over and out!
Priyanka Jaisinghani is the co-founder of Girlz,FTW, an international organization building a community of women and girlz that support, empower, and elevate each other through mentorship. Growing up across different cultures and countries, India, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, and the United States, equipped Priyanka with a global perspective and motivated her to build a career focused on building social impact. (First published on the Ladderworks website on August 6, 2021.)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews of founders building a more equitable world here.