Our GBC Story
Becca Bean and Sarina Divan are rising sophomores at the University of Pennsylvania. While Gender Balance Consulting (GBC) is their latest joint project, it certainly isn’t the first. In this blog post, they’ll tell the story of their paths to GBC and how they just can’t seem to get away from each other.
Becca: I would say my so-called “feminist awakening” really took off during my freshman year of high school. 2013 was the year I discovered Model United Nations which I really enjoyed because I viewed it as a way for people to work together to solve global problems. With my experience in the club, I couldn’t help but notice how women and girls seemed to be left out of global conversations and really began to dig deeper into the issues they face. I read books like I Am Malala, Half the Sky, and We Should All Be Feminists. I had heard of Girl Up at the end of 8th grade when I volunteered at a Girls On the Run 5k and the program suddenly seemed like something my high school needed.
Sarina: I stumbled upon Girl Up and feminism by a stroke of luck. During my sophomore year of high school, I chose to start a Girl Up club for my Girl Scouts Gold Award project, but Girl Up quickly became the highlight of my high school experience. I realized my own lack of awareness, as well as that of my peers, of the issues girls and women face domestically and globally. As I looked more into it, I realized how deep and structural these issues were. Beyond that, I began to understand that empowering girls and women was crucial to solving many other global issues. Girl Up was not only a profound learning experience but was a springboard for action and advocacy. In many ways, I credit the campaign for guiding my academic interests and leading me to Gender Balance Consulting.
Becca: Sarina and I met in the summer of 2016 at our first Girl Up Teen Advisor in-person meeting. We each served a one year tenure for the United Nations Foundation campaign acting as ambassadors for the program. In our respective communities, we organized activities to raise awareness and funds for Girl Up while also representing the campaign in speaking and media outlets. I have a clear memory of chatting with Sarina that summer about our upcoming college applications and both of us mentioning Penn as our top choice. As Teen Advisors, we had monthly calls with the 18 other girls in our class and Girl Up staff. We also traveled to Los Angeles for a weekend of programming and networking.
Sarina: Throughout our time with Girl Up, we were able to receive invaluable advocacy and leadership training. At each annual Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., we heard from powerful female advocates, including First Lady Michelle Obama and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau. These speakers inspired us to take action, and Girl Up showed us how. Our Teen Advisor training provided insight on the inner-workings of a grassroots campaign and allowed us to hone in on our professional skills.
During this time, I discovered how to turn my thoughts and passion into action. With my club in Buffalo, New York, I organized an Upstate New York leadership conference for over 200 girls, ranging from middle school to college students. Through this experience, I realized that the gender equality movement is for girls and women of all ages. Girls as young as twelve were interested in starting their own clubs and becoming advocates themselves. I was keenly aware that women before me had made changes to society that allowed me to have a voice in spaces where women previously had not, and I felt responsible for making these spaces even more accessible for girls younger than me.
Becca: In the summer of 2016, I also interned for the nonprofit Running Start, which organizes training programs for young women to run for office. I participated in their week-long conference at Georgetown University with about 50 other young women where we were trained in fundraising, public speaking, social media, and more. I met many incredible people that summer who work in politics, business, and nonprofits. Working in the office gave me a feeling of inspiration every day since I felt like I was part of a movement to shift American politics.
The next summer I interned at Ashoka supporting social entrepreneurs around the world. I worked on the Global Engagement team and my boss and I shared an interest in gender equality. We worked with fellows to explore how women approach social problems and solutions differently and how Ashoka can best support them. We also organized a confidence workshop for summer interns where we discussed topics including power posing and positive attributes. My boss brought in Stephenie Foster to speak to the interns about her career and current work at Smash Strategies, which is how I learned about gender consultancies. Finally, I learned about the gender balance among fellows (more men) and the organization (more men as you moved up to executive positions). I loved my time at Ashoka too, but college life started calling my name as summer came to an end.
Sarina: Once we got to Penn, Becca and I lived in dorm rooms a floor apart in Kings Court English College House. I remember bumping into Becca in the courtyard of our building on our first night at Penn. While we kept in loose touch throughout the first semester, occasionally having meals together, our friendship solidified when we joined the same sorority, Alpha Phi. We feared the stereotypical concept of sororities that seemingly goes against our feminist ideals, but once we became sisters of Alpha Phi, we realized it did anything but. Alpha Phi gave us a network of more than 200 amazing women on campus, some of whom are on the board of GBC.
Attending the same sorority events and meetings, Becca and I constantly found ourselves meeting up outside of Kings Court to walk together. I recall one of these walks to Shake Shack for dinner with other Alpha Phi girls when Becca told me about an idea she had: a consulting club that would provide audits and recommendations to companies related to their gender policies.
Becca: Basically, I asked Sarina: “did you know there are companies that do this? And don’t you think we could do it too?” I explained how I really wanted to bring together clubs on campus dedicated to feminist causes and consulting. I saw this as a very new and fresh offering to students. At the time I was involved in Global Research and Consulting, the Wharton Social Impact Advisory Board, the OWN It women’s leadership conference (where I met Ellie and Sima - two of our first board members!) and others.
Sarina: This also came at a time when I was also feeling a bit disconnected from my Girl Up roots. While the clubs I was involved in at Penn spoke to my interests - such as the Public Policy Initiative Student Group and the West Philadelphia Tutoring Project - my gender equality advocate hat was sitting on the shelf. Yet, I still felt the same passion to inspire change as I did throughout my time with Girl Up. So when Becca proposed this idea to me, I knew it was something I needed to be a part of.
Six months after our walk on Chestnut Street, here we are with Gender Balance Consulting - what we joke is our own grown-up version of Girl Up. This summer has been a summer filled with calls between Monterrey, Mexico and Buffalo, New York, but we can’t wait to launch GBC this semester!