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Guest speaker discusses female empowerment

| Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Annie Warshaw, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Mission Propelle, spoke Monday at Saint Mary’s about her company and how to follow one’s passion. Mission Propelle is a company with a goal to empower girls from a young age by offering them exercises at their elementary schools.

-web version kellyvaughan lecture photoKelly Vaughan | The Observer

Warshaw said that she was abused by her father as a young girl and that this experience severely affected her ability to harness her own voice. She said by high school, she felt like she didn’t have one.

Warshaw said that finally changed when she went to college and was able to use her voice in an effective way on campus.

“In college I … had the knowledge and the tools,” Warshaw said.

Warshaw said she found involvement on campus with feminist groups and became an activist in light of the Iraq War. 

Not knowing exactly what she wanted to do, Warshaw said she joined Teach for America, and she said she was excited for a stable job. However, she noticed some girls in her second-grade class were hard to reach. She said her first year teaching on the south side of Chicago was the most important year of her life.

“I noticed the problems girls were facing started very, very early,” Warshaw said. “[So I asked] how can I take ownership of my future and do what I am passionate about — empowering women?”

Warshaw decided to create her own company. With the help of another teacher, she figured out how to grow a business that was focused on empowering young girls to let them know they had a voice.

“I needed to empower women,” Warshaw said, “I had coffee with feminist groups all over Chicago and I thought, ‘I can to that.’”

Warshaw said Mission Propelle started working with eight schools in the fall of their first year, while both of its founders were still working full time as teachers. The company works with girls from first to fifth grade after school. Warshaw said they focus on mentoring, doing yoga exercises and reading books with female protagonists. 

“We wrote and illustrated 115 books on topics that every girl goes through,” Warshaw said. “And then we use them as topics for discussion.”

Warshaw said her startup company does not have any outside investors and is, therefore, free to make all decisions independently. 

“You always have a choice at any point in your life to take action,” Warshaw said.

Warshaw’s company now has 45 teachers working for it. She said she is happy she is doing what she is passionate about and that her company is giving these young girls the opportunity to grow up to be empowered women.

“In a perfect world, you would bring your passions and skills together together to reach your goal,” Warshaw told attendees. “So how can you bring them together?”

Junior Julia Sturges said she felt better about her own future after listening to Warshaw’s story.

“It was nice to hear that Annie didn’t [do] what she was doing right out college,” Sturges said. “She was able to find what she could be passionate about after she graduated. It all fell into place after trial and error.”

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