Founders

Andrea Johnston and Gloria Steinem began Girls Speak Out in 1994 to bring girls ages 7 and up from different backgrounds together to explore connections, history, research, rights, strengths and strategies that celebrate their power and help overcome challenges and find common ground.

In 2014, after piloting workshops, Andrea expanded the program to include boys’ and co-ed groups. Amazingly, the information the program brings and the way it is delivered have resonated globally.

Original collaborators included girls and women students, teachers and mothers from the ages of 9-71 who met in Andrea’s living room during the summer of 1994. The YWCA of the USA and the Third Wave Foundation piloted the program in 1995. Our founding supporters include the Ms. Foundation for Women, UNICEF, Marlo Thomas and Alice Walker.

Andrea Johnston

Andrea is a respected speaker, program developer, organizer and writer; she was instrumental in creating the first public forum for girls in the UN General Assembly as part of her mission to expand the places where girls (and children) belong. She is a co-founder with Gloria Steinem of Girls Speak Out, the original advocacy organization working with girls and their supporters on five continents that now includes boys and co-ed workshops and actions. Andrea is an expert on bringing people together in small and large groups no matter where or how they live; in helping them find common ground among themselves, and to celebrate their strengths.

She promotes each person’s positive development and resilience, and traveled internationally to help inspire people to be their true selves and connect them with friendly individuals and organizations. Andrea’s book, Girls Speak Out: Finding Your True Self, is in its second edition and has sold over 100,000 copies. It is a handbook on the program, which is adapted for boys and co-ed groups.

A 30-year veteran of public and private school teaching on both USA coasts, Andrea’s groundbreaking articles on sexual harassment in public schools in Sonoma County, California, were among the first to highlight how girls and their mothers used Title IX protections to level the playing field inside and outside the classroom. Andrea convened and helped organize the First National Girls Conference at UNICEF House in New York in 1997, which produced the Girls’ Global Plan of Action on Girls’ Rights, Media and Violence. She has organized and keynoted presentations in venues that range from the General Assembly of the United Nations, CNN Center and public housing meeting rooms in 20 states. Girls Speak Out is a recipient of a Soros Foundation/Open Society Award, and Andrea was recently honored as one of Fiji’s Women of the Year. Andrea has an online column for and about girls and women at www.feminist.com and blogs here. She has a son, Jesse, who lives in northern California.

Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem is one of the most influential writers, lecturers, editors, and activists of our time. She travels worldwide as a lecturer and feminist organizer, and is a frequent media spokeswoman on issues of equality. She is particularly interested in the shared origins of sex and race caste systems; gender roles and child abuse as the roots of violence; non-violent conflict resolution; the cultures of indigenous peoples; and organizing across national boundaries for peace and justice. She recently received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work on behalf of equality.

In 1972, Ms. Steinem co-founded Ms. Magazine, and remained one of its editors for fifteen years. She continues to serve as a consulting editor for Ms., and was instrumental in the magazine’s recent move to join forces with the nonprofit Feminist Majority Foundation. She was the founding president of the Ms. Foundation for Women, a national multi-racial, multi-issue fund that supports grassroots projects to empower women and girls, and also a founder of its Take Our Daughters to Work® Day, a first national day devoted to girls that has now become an institution here and in other countries.

Parenting magazine selected her for its Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995 for her work in promoting girls’ self-esteem, and Biography magazine listed her as one of the 25 most influential women in America. In 1993, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York. She co-founded the Women’s Media Center and travels extensively speaking to audiences of all ages. She now lives in New York City, and is currently finishing Road to the Heart: America As if Everyone Mattered, a book about her more than forty years on the road as a feminist organizer.