In 2017, members of the Chicago North Shore Chapter of the ITW Women’s Network (IWN) sought to expand their reach and empowerment of female leaders into the local community. As they considered where they could have the greatest impact, they saw a natural connection to the company-sponsored ITW David Speer Academy and its G.I.R.L.S. (Great. Independent. Responsible. Ladies of STEM) club.

A women-empowerment club, G.I.R.L.S. supports female students in both their personal and academic development. Partnering with the school’s two club sponsors, the IWN team of 12 women – representing a wide range of ages, job functions and cultural backgrounds – set out to host a mentoring event once a month.

Initially, the team planned to focus on professional development and career readiness. However, after getting to know the girls and the experiences they already receive at ITW David Speer Academy, they decided they could better serve the girls by focusing on a blend of social and cultural experiences. Monthly events have included a tour of the Mexican Museum of Art, a session on creating an “elevator pitch,” a dinner on business etiquette and a trip to the opera.

“This has been a really terrific year for IWN and the G.I.R.L.S. club,” said mentor Angie Sheehan, ITW vice president & general manager. “We are excited to see the club grow, and both the girls and our mentors have enjoyed their experiences together.”

Twelve girls from the school participated in G.I.R.L.S. during the second semester of 2017. The number has jumped to 40 girls for the 2017-18 school year.

While the program is self-funded, the G.I.R.L.S. club mentoring program has benefited from the ITW Foundation’s matching gift and volunteer programs to support its events.