Olympia Snowe Leadership Institute

Shining a light on girls.

Women leaders continue to be underrepresented almost everywhere in the world. The reasons vary from country to country but unequal access to the resources critical to becoming effective leaders is a universal issue.  Strengthening and supporting women to become leaders is most effective when it is focused on adolescent girls and young women.  Investing in young women will change the direction of their futures and in turn, their communities.

Studies show that between elementary and high school, girls’ self-esteem and confidence drops an average of 3.5 times more than boys’.  The Institute’s goal is to have girls interact with successful women, so they have positive role models.  The Institute exposes its student participants to women from a wide variety of career paths and life experiences.

Olympia Snowe launched her Leadership Institute in 2015, two years after her retirement from the U.S. Senate after serving three terms as a senator from Maine.

The Institute has a three-year high school program with each year focusing on one of three themes: Sophomore year is  My values – what do I stand for?,  Junior year is My Voice – How do I get heard? and Senior year is My Vision – Where do I want to go?   The Institute provides a three-year program “designed to intervene at a pivotal moment in girls’ development, giving them the skills and confidence that will serve them well throughout their lives.”

When the program began it was focused on fifty young women at one high school in Maine as a beta model.  In 2016-2017 the Institute expanded to a statewide model with one high school from each of the seven counties in Maine. By the fall of 2019 the Institute will be partnering with 36 schools and have 540 young women in the program.  Participants are 10th-12th grade girls who show great potential for utilizing leadership skills for their futures.

We have been great admirers of Olympia Snowe throughout her career.  She has fought for bi-partisanship, and now she is fighting for women and increased leadership.  Her successful Leadership Institute in the state of Maine should become a model that we hope many other states will adopt.