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Speak Up! Girls for Negotiation

17 September 2012 No Comment

Jenneth Macan Markar

Jenneth Macan Markar
Washington, DC, USA

“The inspiration behind the workshops developed by PROGRESS is to teach young girls the skill of negotiation, to enable them to make better lifestyle decisions and grow up to be successful women.”

This is one of two articles on PROGRESS’s inaugural workshop in Washington DC.  The first article looks at the Institution and concept behind PROGRESS. The second article will describe the workshop and its impact on the participating girls here in Washington DC.


In a society where young girls are targeted by the media as viable consumers of materialism and women learn to comply with what is expected of them as opposed to what they want or can achieve, PROGRESS stands out as a program intended to effectuate a positive change in society by helping women and girls learn to make better decisions for themselves through negotiation. Teaching “Negotiation skills” is the hallmark of the Program for Research and Outreach on Gender Equity in Society (PROGRESS) developed at the Heinz College of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The inspiration behind the workshops developed by PROGRESS is to teach young girls the skill of negotiation to enable them to make better lifestyle decisions and grow up to be successful women.

PROGRESS is holding a workshop in Washington DC for young girls for the first time at the end of September. The workshop titled “Speak Up” will be a half-day program on Saturday, September 22, 2012 from 8:30am – 1:00pm. It will include food, games, and activities along with entertainment by the Georgetown University Step Team and Batala Washington, a phenomenal group of women drummers. Molly Barker, Founder of Girls on the Run International, will be the keynote speaker at the conference.

In the four years that the program has been in operation in several communities in Pittsburgh, girls between the ages of 7 and 12 participating in half-day workshops have been taught negotiation skills in a fun way. The workshops have been held with the help of facilitators from within the community, who are trained by PROGRESS staff prior to the workshop. It is hoped that through the adoption of these skills the girls will learn how to make better life choices by creating positive options for them regarding their safety, health, education, future relationships, and jobs. PROGRESS workshops focus on girls from low income and marginalized communities as well as those at schools that have the capacity to conduct similar workshops themselves.

The curriculum taught to the girls was developed by Ayana Ledford, Executive Director of PROGRESS, and Professor Linda Babcock, the James M. Walton Professor of Economics at Carnegie Mellon, based on 20 years of  research on gender roles and negotiation which she and her co-author explore more fully in their book Women Don’t Ask. Ayana Ledford, the Executive Director of PROGRESS, conducts programming and community outreach. Currently PROGRESS conducts research, carries out advocacy projects, and implements workshops. The newest long term initiative by PROGRESS is a continuing education program for professional women called the Heinz Negotiation Academy for Women, which is to start in January of 2013.

Although PROGRESS has had many workshops in Pittsburgh, this is the first time in Washington DC. Heinz College has a branch here in DC and it seems like the natural step up for PROGRESS to expand its work. Similar to the workshops conducted in Pittsburgh, the program will work with girls and community volunteers as facilitators.

PROGRESS has just started a three-year long collaboration with the Consortium for Public Education in McKeesport, PA, to track the girls they work with in this program for several years and study how the workshop has influenced their decision-making. In the future PROGRESS hopes to develop the capacity to conduct follow-up programs to track the progress of all the girls over the years and study the longterm impacts of workshops such as this.

To learn more, check out the website and click on the banner ad titled “Speak Up!”

Jenneth Macan Markar is a Washington DC-based gender and development consultant with a law degree from the University of Colombo in Sri Lanka and a Master’s in International Affairs from Columbia University in New York. Originally from Sri Lanka, she has worked with the United Nations (UN) and several UN-based NGOs in research and advocacy for several years. Her areas of expertise are gender, women, peace and security, UN based National Action Plans, international development, human rights, and the rule of law. She can be contacted at


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The views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Peace X Peace.

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