Leaders have different styles of engaging others, some lead by example, others lead from behind. For Jennifer Stancil, she leads through collaboration and making space at the table for important conversations and work focused on gender equity. Jen has served as the Chair of the National Girls Collaborative Board of Directors for the past three years. During that time, she has led efforts in shaping a strategic plan and amplified the voice and visibility of the National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP). She has been dedicated to the NGCP mission and provided leadership as we move forward in a world where the population has just exceeded 8 billion people and technology is accelerating at lightning speed. Leading through collaboration isn’t easy – it takes time, focus, intentionality, patience and flexibility. Jen navigates these challenges deftly. During the National Girls Collaborative 20th year anniversary celebration in Pittsburgh, Jennifer received the ‘Excellence in Collaboration’ award for dedication, support and advocacy of the National Girls Collaborative Project. We are grateful for her collaborative spirit and ability to always strive towards greatness and fresh ideas. As Jen’s term comes to an end, she took a moment to reflect on her time as Board Chair.
“The National Girls Collaborative has many moons moving around it, all rotating in the same direction allowing us to uplift each other. Those moons are organizations all working toward the same goal – to engage girls in STEM. A new generation is coming, and we are here to bring people into an orbit all working towards the same goals with meaningful outcomes.”
What has it meant to you to be affiliated with the National Girls Collaborative Project?
When Karen and I first met – we were both already doing national work. Karen, leading NGCP and my work with the Girls Math and Science Partnership. My own growth is a mirror to the way others can find their place in NGCP. From local collaboratives to champions board and now as Chair, each opportunity at NGCP has been an exercise in fulfilling the mission. As chair, I was thrilled to stay on for a third year, which allowed the organization to focus on the 20th anniversary with consistent Board leadership. I am excited about our bold strategic plan at NGCP, its ambition to reach through diverse platforms across so many existing and new audiences. Crystallizing the vision and values for the organization has been a joy and, of course, an exercise in collaboration with the staff and Board!
What do you most appreciate in a collaborator?
I want to be in a collaboration that teaches me something new. Lately, I've been leaning into the way I learn, and the way I learn with others. I'm gaining new skills by working with people who love to craft and collaborate in the moment vs. the more reflective and iterative collaboration I'm used to. During the pandemic, we all had to be extra innovative about ways we could continue to collaborate. At NGCP, we did so with verve and creativity.We focused on strategic planning and marketing while honing in on our messaging. We wanted to refine and refresh who we are and where we are going in the next 20 years. Create a marketing and strategic plan – what it means to reach five million girls in five years and how to effectively share our story. That is a big achievement.
Who are your role models?
I am deeply motivated by stories. I am fascinated by hearing how women have navigated their journeys in science. I think I'm wired that way because of my parents - a marketing executive and a statistician - who have primed me to both logically look deeper and find the creative elements of a story. One of my favorite books exemplifying that is Radioactive, which is a gorgeously illustrated deep dive into the life of the heroic Marie Curie. The stories of women CEO's, particularly in business sectors that aren't female-centric, are just also amazing - Ursula Burns at Xerox, Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook, and Indra Nooyi at PepsiCo.
What advice would you give to the NGCP community?
Why pass the torch around to light one fire at a time when you can ignite sparks everywhere? This was my message at our most recent Collaboration Institute. The power of the work lies within us and within our ability to pass it - to those before us, behind us, and beside us - the inspirational message of diversity, justice, and transformational change a little bit every day. That's what gets us to our destination - a more just, equitable, and inclusive STEM-empowered world. And so, when we have an opportunity, we enjoy recognizing those that we work with who are especially excellent at collaboration.
Thank you, Jennifer Stancil, for your guidance, spirit, and boundless energy. Your dedication and impact has helped guide us towards the next twenty years where we’re positioned to create more meaningful and powerful collaborations. We are greatly appreciative of your time, talents and dedication towards girls in STEM.