Jill Biden Recognizes 15 Girls Leading Change

In honor of International Day of the Girl, the White House Gender Policy Council celebrated 15 young women leaders leading change in the U.S.  

First Lady Jill Biden and the White House Gender Policy Council hosted the first-ever Girls Leading Change celebration at the White House.

When youth celebrate, they want cupcakes. President Joe Biden’s personal chef saw to it that the young girls and women gathered at the White House for the first-ever Girls Leading Change event had them.

In celebration of International Day of the Girl on Oct. 11, First Lady Jill Biden honored 15 young leaders, selected by the White House Gender Policy Council, who are leading change and shaping a brighter future for generations to come.

“These young women are protecting and preserving the earth, writing and sharing stories that change minds, and turning their pain into purpose,” said Dr. Biden at the event. “Together they represent the potential of young people across the country, and it is my hope that others can learn from the power of their innovation, strength and hope.”

In addition to the honorees, the event hosted some 100 girls from organizations, such as Girls on the Run and Girl Scouts of the USA. Attendees also included press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, director of Gender Policy Council Jennifer Klein, several members of Congress and other women changemakers.

I was one of those changemakers in attendance. As an entrepreneur breaking gender stereotypes in the toy industry for more than 15 years, I’ve heard industry leaders say things like “girl empowerment was a trend a few years ago, it’s not anymore.” The Girls Leading Change honorees prove this wrong. Girls are a powerful force in the fight for gender equality and their ability and potential should not be overlooked.

Jennifer Klein, director of the White House Gender Policy Council, and Jodi Bondi Norgaard, the founder of the Go! Go! Sports Girls. (Courtesy)

Barriers continue to limit a girl’s full participation. The Biden administration unveiled important actions that invest in the future of girls, including:

  • Advancing girls’ education globally
  • Promoting STEM skills and girls’ leadership
  • Fostering resilience and awareness of online harassment and abuse
  • Encouraging innovation and empowerment of girls in the toy industry.

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Global Gender Gap Report, we have 130 years of hard work still to do to reach gender equality. It shouldn’t be this difficult or take that long. I have hope these White House initiatives will put gender equality on a fast track.

“Fearlessness is our superpower,” said Jean-Pierre. “As women and young women, we need to be fearless to bulldoze through the obstacles that are placed in front of us every day. We must fearlessly fight for our rights and our freedoms and the rights and freedoms of all women.” 

You’re never too young to start, and never too old to eat a cupcake.

2023 Girl Leading Change Honorees

  • Breanna and Brooke Bennett, 16, Montgomery, Ala., are dedicated to ending period poverty and ensuring everyone has access to the menstrual supplies they need.
  • Jazmin Cazares, 18, Uvalde, Texas, is a leading activist for gun violence prevention at the state and national level.
  • Mona Cho, 15, Redondo Beach, Calif., is dedicated to combatting online harassment and abuse and the harm it poses to youth and teens.
  • Julia Garnett, 17, Hendersonville, Tenn., is dedicated to fighting against book bans and promoting educational freedom in public school and county public libraries.
  • Logan Hennes, 16, New York, N.Y., is committed to combatting antisemitism in communities across the country.
  • Anja Herrman, 17, River Forest, Ill., is a disability rights activist and advocate for equity and inclusion.
  • Leela Marie Hidier, 18, Yarmouth, Maine, is a climate social justice advocate and published author.
  • Elisa Martinez, 17, Las Vegas, is an organizer dedicated to civic engagement, particularly within the Latino community.
  • Gabriella Nakai, 17, Phoenix, Arizona, is a Navajo and Choctaw leader dedicated to furthering food security and sustainability, indigenous sovereignty, and youth advocacy.
  • Zahra Rahimi, 17, Alexandria, Va., arrived in the U.S. four years ago from Afghanistan and has since dedicated herself to supporting refugee resettlement in her local community, including access to English as a Second Language services in Alexandria schools.
  • Gitanjali Rao, 17, Highlands Ranch, Colo., is a freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has won awards for developing a tool to detect lead contamination.
  • Avery Turner, 17, Colorado Springs, Colo., is committed to supporting military teens and currently serves as the Director of Programs at Bloom, an organization started by military teens dedicated to promoting their belonging within the military community and amplifying their voices.
  • Sandra Ukah, 18, Lake Mary, Fla., a freshman at the University of Florida, is committed to civic education and community organizing.
  • Rania Zuri, 18, Morgantown, W. Va., is the founder and CEO of The LiTEArary Society, a nonprofit organization focused on ending “book deserts” for disadvantaged preschool children.

Up next:

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Jodi Bondi Norgaard is an entrepreneur, author, keynote speaker, feminist advocate, and an expert in creating change and breaking gender stereotypes. She is the founder of Dream Big Toy Company and the creator of the award-winning Go! Go! Sports Girls line of dolls, books, and apps for girls, encouraging healthy and active play over beauty and body image. Her book,  More Than A Doll: How Creating A New Brand of Sports Dolls Turned into a Fight to End Gender Stereotypes , will be released Jan. 2025.