PHILADELPHIA – Acting United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Girls Inc. of Greater Philadelphia & Southern New Jersey, in partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, hosted a virtual panel discussion for Girls Inc. program participants with women leaders in law enforcement in Philadelphia. The women leader panelists were Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams, City of Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, City of Philadelphia Controller Rebecca Rhynhart, and City of Philadelphia Solicitor Diana Cortes. Dena Herrin, Executive Director of Girls Inc. of Greater Phila. & Southern New Jersey, provided welcoming remarks, and the discussion was moderated by Girls Inc. Eureka! Coordinator Sarah Kane.
The meeting marks a moment when, for the first time in Philadelphia history, four major law enforcement agencies – the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of PA, the Philadelphia Police Department, the City Controller’s Office and the City’s Law Department – are being led by women, two by women of color. The goal of the discussion, which was attended by approximately 60 participants ranging in age from 11 to 18, was to engage directly with girls who may be beginning to think about their own education and career paths, and to share the message that they can become leaders in any field, even fields like law enforcement that are traditionally dominated by men. The panelists spoke candidly about a wide variety of topics including their personal and professional backgrounds, typical duties of their current jobs, mentors and inspiration, professional challenges and rewarding moments, and even misconceptions about women in the field.
“Representation matters; seeing and engaging directly with women role models matters,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Williams. “Girls in middle school and high school are laying the groundwork for their futures. I enthusiastically participated in this event because, as a mother of four students, I know how important it is for youth to see diverse examples of people pursuing different careers and interests, especially people serving in leadership roles. As the late Justice Ginsburg said: ‘Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.’ And if we can do it, you can, too.”
“Blazing a new path can be challenging but is not impossible,” said Police Commissioner Outlaw. “It is important that young women know that what traditionally has been seen as weaknesses in us are, in fact, strengths. Women have long deserved many seats at the table due to our skill sets, lived experiences, perspectives and qualifications. It is crucial we develop our young women early to prepare them to not only take their seats at the table or to recognize when a seat at the table is not enough , but to ensure they are equipped to address any inequities or other challenges they may experience as they blaze trails for others behind them.”
“I’m thrilled to participate in this event with Girls, Inc. to encourage today’s young women – the leaders of tomorrow – to consider fields long-believed to be ‘men’s work,’ like government, law enforcement or STEM,” said Controller Rhynhart. “I am the first woman to be elected City Controller and while women are in positions of power across the city, Philadelphia has never had a woman mayor. Pennsylvania has never had a woman senator or governor. Girls need to know that they can, and should, hold positions of power, no matter the field, whether in the public or private sector. Events like this give girls the opportunity to see women creating change and leading, opening their minds to endless possibilities.”
“This program was a great opportunity to share with tomorrow’s women leaders the importance of public service work and how the City of Philadelphia Law Department plays a role in our community by defending the work of our City Council, our affirmative litigation program, or working to ensure the health and safety of our residents are protected,” said Solicitor Cortes.
Girls Inc. is a nonprofit organization with roots dating to 1864 and national status since 1945. The local affiliate was founded in 1961 as Teen Aid, and became affiliated with the national organization in 2002. Its mission is to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold, through direct service and advocacy. Girls Inc. serves girls in K-12th grades at local schools, community partner sites, Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Service Center, and the Girls Inc. center. Girls Inc. programs focus on leadership and community action, STEM, early grade literacy, financial literacy, healthy decision making, and media literacy. The combination of long-lasting mentoring relationships, a pro-girl environment, and research-based programming equips girls to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers, and grow up healthy, educated, and independent. A Girls Inc. participant learns to value herself, take risks, and discover and develop her inherent strengths. The mission and the proven, holistic approach the organization employs to fulfill its mission is making a meaningful impact on thousands of girls in the region.