How I Spent My Summer Empowering the Young Women in My Hometown

By Pranavi Kethanaboyina, GECA high school in Gilroy Grad, Stanford University Class of 2022

I’ve always been interested in women’s leadership. Statistics prove that women are barely represented in senior roles: in government, in private and public sectors, and in businesses. According to the Center for American Progress, women earn almost 60 percent of undergraduate degrees, and 60 percent of all master’s degrees. They earn 47 percent of all law degrees, and 48 percent of all medical degrees. Despite the fact that women compose half our population, and have demonstrated their academic ability and achievement, their presence in top management jobs today remains below 9 percent. Learning about these issues forced me to mull over the concept that although we as students aren’t able to alter the course of adults, that doesn’t mean we can’t influence our own peers.

After attending Miss CEO’s Becoming An Effective Leader workshop at Stanford, I was inspired. Even though I cared about the fact that women leaders faced more difficulties compared to men, I never knew what to do about it. After attending the Miss CEO seminar, I was eager to bring what I had learned to my friends back home. Forget having a summer job flipping burgers, this was a chance to make a difference and inspire the young women in my hometown.

After many months of hard work and preparation, we launched the first official Miss CEO high school pilot club in Gilroy, a six-week summer program focused on teaching relevant leadership skills such as effective communication, team-building, networking, and learning from failure.

Highlights from our meetings included listening to a diverse range of accomplished and inspiring guest speakers. They all generously shared their career journeys, leadership lessons, and advice with our class.

In our first week, we learned about proper goal-setting with our featured guest speaker, Marlu Silva. The girls created effective and SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely) goals while working together in groups.

“There’s a difference between a boss and a leader…..A leader rolls up her sleeves and gets her hands dirty to help get the job done.” — Marlu Silva

In our second session, we honed in on the importance of effective communication with guest speaker Arlene Quach. Students worked on crafting 30-second pitches in which they shared their background and goals in front of the class.

“How you lead is a secret sauce into why people follow you, and all our different flavors are what makes it taste good” — Arlene Quach

The next week, we tested our negotiation skills with fun scenarios and tried to develop creative “win-win” resolutions with our partners. Special guest speaker Karyn Corbett also taught us the the importance of negotiation in the workplace.

“You don’t get what you deserve. You get what you negotiate.”-Karyn Corbett sharing Chester Karrass’s wise words with class.

Guest speaker Shaunna Taylor shared how effective networking played a significant role in helping her get to where she is today. Afterwards, the class participated in a special Miss CEO activity in which each student wrote down a specific goal on a piece of paper. Fellow members then stuck post-its on the goal sheet listing advice or contacts to help the student accomplish her goal. It was very fulfilling to leverage the power of networking in order to help each other make progress with our goals.

We concluded our workshop series on a high note, discussing women in the workforce and recovering from failure with our guest speakers Nita Singh Kaushal and Jennifer Kenny. We enjoyed an interactive and thought-provoking discussion with both of these awesome women!

Together, the Miss CEO Gilroy girls found a way to enjoy their summer and be productive, as well as learn how to be amazing leaders.

Student Testimonials:

“The most important thing I got out of Miss CEO was listening to successful women talk about their stories, and how they got to their awesome careers and leadership roles today. Being in an environment with girls that were motivated enough to wake up on a Saturday morning for a leadership workshop was so empowering.” -Mayoli Badoni

“Miss CEO helped me realize there are many ways to achieve a goal. This club has also opened my eyes to the gender inequalities that exist in the workforce and inspired me to help others see those inequalities as well.”-Eryn Yuen

For a week-by-week account of our club’s activities, please visit the Miss CEO in Gilroy website:

Are you interested in becoming a Miss CEO High School Ambassador? To learn more and apply, please visit: