Converse will confer an honorary degree to Molly Barker, founder of the international Girls on the Run program, during commencement exercises on Saturday, May 12, 2012. Barker, whose life work closely aligns with Converse’s mission to advance the lives of women and girls, will also serve as commencement speaker.
Girls on the Run was founded in Charlotte, NC in 1996 with the aim to toward develop self-esteem in young girls. Today, there are more than 190 chapters serving over 150,000 girls and women each year in cities across North America. Barker is a four-time Hawaii Ironman triathlete who used her background in social work, counseling and teaching, along with research on adolescent issues, to develop the program.
Barker earned her Bachelor of Art in Chemistry and her Master of Social Work at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She has been featured in People, Runner’s World, Glamour, Self, Shape, Redbook and Woman’s Day magazines. Molly has authored two books, Girls on Track: A Parent’s Guide to Inspiring our Daughters to Achieve a Lifetime of Self-Esteem and Respect, and Girls Lit from Within, which is specifically for 3rd – 8th grade girls.
Through her work with young girls, Barker identified and coined the phrase “girl box” to describe the emotional “place” many girls go to around adolescence, a place where cultural and societal stereotypes limit choices as well as opportunities. Barker supports targeted social media and curriculum-driven projects to create a social movement that provides girls and women with tools and the courage to eliminate their often unconscious buy-in to the “girl box” and its limiting messages.
With her recent launch of The Naked Face Project, Barker is fast becoming a well-known and innovative social entrepreneur. She uses the simplest of actions to create shifts in perception of gender, beauty and power to fuel the women’s self-liberation movement and create a world where girls and women can boldly pursue their dreams and activate their greatest potential.
Barker is a positive role model for girls and women of all ages. She enjoys writing, running and yoga but most enjoys the challenges that emerge in her own personal evolution and deep desire to live life outside the girl box.