1. How can I help?

There are many ways in which you can help SYF. In 2009, we received a generous grant from Status of Women Canada that allows us to greatly develop the program. The grant only spans three years and is not renewable, however, so we are looking for financial contributions and corporate sponsorships that will permit us to continue our mission. The actual training costs are close to $5,000 per participant, but each girl is only asked to pay a fraction of that cost in registration fee. The fee includes the classes, conferences, mentoring, course materials and accommodation for the three weekends.

To continually improve the program, we are also looking for guest speakers, mentors and event space, as well as new schools to whom we can introduce the program.

2. How do you measure the program’s results?

As every project must benefit at least 80 people, we pay special attention to the direct and indirect impact of the chosen activities, which helps us to determine SYF’s reach in the community.

In addition, before starting the program, each participant must complete a leadership knowledge questionnaire and self-evaluation. We also ask a parent, a teacher and a friend of the participant to evaluate her, and repeat the process at the end of the program. The data is then analysed and allows us to measure the participants’ progress.

3. Does anyone offer a similar program?

Having researched programs offered in Quebec and Canada, we noticed that many tend to be geared toward young people with academic difficulties. However, few are conceived for high-achieving students who are looking to take on new challenges.

Through the training, SYF offers these motivated, top-performing students an opportunity to grow further. With developed leadership training, the participants can motivate their peers, thus increasing the program’s impact.

4. What makes your program stand out?

Unlike many leadership programs, SYF aims to develop girls who have already proved their leadership potential. With this all-encompassing training, they are able to go to even greater lengths and motivate their peers to get involved. SYF trains them in depth and transforms them from the inside, at a crucial age when they could become discouraged by the small proportion of female leaders they encounter in larger society.

5. How does the program work?

SYF’s formula is unique and has proven to be quite successful. The program gathers driven young women from public and private schools for three weekends of workshops, interactive classes and conferences. To develop concrete leadership abilities, each girl must develop a community project that will positively affect at least 80 people, thus applying the concepts she learned to a real cause for which she cares: fundraising for hospitalised children, raising awareness about homelessness, or choreographing dances for physically disabled teenagers.

SYF pairs each participant with a mentor to guide her throughout her journey. This mentoring relationship adds a very important element to the program by ensuring an intergenerational transfer of knowledge. Having a mentor gives the participants the chance to have a role model and a professional reference, and to start building an important professional network from a young age.

6. What results does the program produce?

By the time the participants complete the program, they are more confident, comfortable in public, and eager to continue contributing to the development and well-being of their community. As they start entering the workforce, SYF alumni who successfully participated in this demanding program while juggling academics and, in many cases, part-time work, become ideal candidates for leadership positions.

7. Why only women?

Despite the significant progress that has been made over the last few decades in regards to women’s position in society and the workplace, much remains to be done before they achieve full parity with men, both salary- and representation-wise. Even though women make up half of the country’s population, in 2010 only 13 percent of directors at Canada’s top 500 public and private sector companies, and 22 percent of Canada’s federal politicians, were women.

It is important to provide young women with the tools that will help them develop their potential and put their talents to the benefit of society. SYF introduces them to accomplished women who have exceeded expectations and who, by sharing their experiences, inspire the participants to reach beyond their comfort zone. Through conferences and workshops, the program enables the participants to recognize their potential and excel.

Finally, it is widely recognized that girls and boys learn differently, especially when placed in an environment with members of the opposite sex. By focusing on girls, SYF provides them with a comfortable environment that is more conducive to learning.

8. Don’t boys need leadership training as much as, if not more than, girls do? Why not have a program for them?

We fully acknowledge the need to train young men in leadership: more boys than girls currently drop out of school, and girls tend to perform better. We are presently focusing on the development of young women, but are open to – and enthusiastic about – starting a program similar to SYF for young men (ages 17 to 20) in the near future.

9. How are the participants chosen?

Each applicant must submit an application, CV, an essay on an inspiring leader and a short description of the project she wants to develop. She then discusses her vision of leadership, her experiences, ambitions and interests in an interview, during which she can also express what she wants to improve on and what she expects from the program. In some cases, applicants must go through a second interview. The interviews allow the selection committee to make a decision on successful applicants.

10. In which schools do you recruit?

We recruit in all schools willing to promote SYF to their students, and we worked with 38 public and 18 private schools in Quebec and Ontario in the first six years of the program. The diversity of the schools enriches the program by exposing the participants to realities different than their own.