There’s a saying that leaders don’t create followers, they create other leaders. Understandably, the reciprocal nature of investing in and developing others far outweighs the temporal and unscalable tenets of counting on only one individual to create lasting change.
Such is the philosophy of entrepreneur Carrie Cook. Fresh off the heels of her sixth annual EmpowHERment summit, Carrie hosts teen girls and professional women each year for an afternoon poised to empower Charlotte’s young women to lead.
Carrie has the type of layered homegrown story that makes her the perfect candidate for the type of work she’s built over the last six years creating a cohesive ecosystem to help young women no matter where they are on their leadership journey.
A product of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system, she stuck close to mentors who tapped her highly energetic personality and provided pathways and opportunities that put her on the track toward college and eventual success as a public servant.
Carrie earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees close to home, eventually decorating her resume with reputable titles under a U.S. senator and expanding her work in local governmental and business affairs.
A turning point came roughly six years ago when, at 20-something and fresh off a visit to her 30th trip to a foreign country, she fell ill and spent the night in a hospital bed contemplating her existence and purpose. With nothing but time on her hands, Carrie counts reading the book The Measure of Our Success by Marian Wright Edelman as a turning point in her life.
She was forced to consider her impact on the world and what her bold, it doesn’t matter if this fails, type of vision for her life. And with a few phone calls to friends and a free space, she launched EmpowHERment. It didn’t matter if only five young women showed up, Carrie was on mission.
The organization sees a clear pathway for women to succeed and to play a true role in the next iteration of Charlotte’s leadership. Carrie cites that 62 percent of young women have no connection to a local woman leader outside of her family.
Considering the rather bleak statistics denoting the lack of women in top leadership positions in our country’s most reputable corporate companies and public offices, EmpowHERment designs its ongoing development tracks beyond the annual summit to ensure young women gain the confidence to take on leadership roles no matter where they land.
According to Carrie, the work is significant for both mentors who comprise of local women from television anchors to entrepreneurs to public officials, and the mentees themselves.
EmpowHERment recently introduced advocacy and civic engagement training to equip their high school participants with the tools to help them identify and take a stand on issues in their community. For instance, Carrie shares that one young woman spoke at a budget meeting at the board of education to advocate for continued investment and access to mentorship programs within the local school district.
Here are a few ways you can get involved in supporting young people in our community by volunteering or donating to the following local leadership development programs in our city:
Mayor’s Mentoring Alliance
Girl Talk Charlotte
Urban Promise Charlotte
Cover image via Facebook. All other images courtesy of Carrie Cook.