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Making a Difference for Girls

Making a Difference for Girls

Assistant Professor of Sociology Amie Hess spends her days working with, learning about, and learning from girls and young women. So when Meredith College commissioned The Status of Girls in North Carolina she was an obvious choice to author the report.

The first report of its kind, The Status of Girls in North Carolina positions Meredith as an institution where policymakers and organizations can seek expertise on and research about girls in the state. And Hess delivers that expertise.

This was a "dream project" for Hess. Throughout the process, she had the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues from Meredith's Department of Nutrition, Health and Human Performance and mentor student research assistants from the sociology program. "Working with our own strong and accomplished young women was just icing on the cake," she said.

Hess and her team worked to research and analyze data from seven content areas – demographics and poverty, education, media engagement, physical health, mental health, sexual health, and leadership and civic engagement.

“We saw this report as an opportunity to do two things,” she explains. “First, we became a centralized repository for all the data about girls in North Carolina that exists in various silos. Second, the report turns the focus on girls and young women in a holistic way.”

Their work yielded a comprehensive analysis of how those seven areas impact the lives of girls in North Carolina – both positively and negatively. Findings indicate that across the board, girls in North Carolina are experiencing academic success, thanks in part to the increased emphasis on STEM education. And they’re also making strides in their leadership pursuits.

But the report also reveals tremendous differences among girls, in terms of both racial and ethnic status and age. Hess and her team found that one in three African American, Latina, and American Indian girls ages 5-17 are living in poverty. Among girls under 5 years old, the number jumps to nearly 50 percent.

And while findings like these may be distressing to some, Hess takes a different approach. She knows the report is making a positive difference for girls in North Carolina. “Having the concrete data allows those working on the ground to craft better and more effective solutions to ensure that their funding is going where it is needed most,” says Hess.

Interested in learning more about the status of girls in North Carolina? Download the full report »

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