Cover Stories

For the Future: Girl Incorporated of St. Louis

We feel the impact of gender inequality every day—from classrooms and boardrooms to the media we consume. In the U.S., women only earn 82% of what their male peers do, and according to UNICEF, 25% of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are neither enrolled in education or employed compared to 10% of boys globally. Girls Incorporated of St. Louis works to ensure that these numbers change and gender inequality becomes a thing of the past. For more than 40 years, the nonprofit has been dedicated to inspiring girls and young women to realize their potential through educational, recreational and cultural programs in a safe environment.

Girls Inc. begins working with young women in early childhood and continues to offer support with mentorship and scholarships through college. The local chapter serves more than 9,000 girls annually. “Our goal is to inspire girls through educational initiatives and personal development programs,” CEO and president Cheryl Jones notes. “We want to expose them to experiences that will propel them toward a successful future.” The nonprofit’s services include Eureka!, a STEM-based program hosted by local universities; summer and after-school offerings in subjects like wellness, media literacy, leadership, performing arts and athletics; and outreach initiatives designed to help girls navigate gender, social and economic barriers.

The national Girls Inc. organization was one of four finalists to be awarded $10 million by the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge, an initiative launched to accelerate progress toward gender equality. The nonprofit’s St. Louis chapter is one of the affiliates who received part of the grant to support Project Accelerate. The program is dedicated to addressing workplace inequalities, especially among women of color in leadership positions. “Project Accelerate works with young women as they transition from high school into college and the workplace,” Jones explains. “We want to equip them with the tools and skills they need. They have so many hurdles to navigate, especially if they are the first in their family to attend college. We walk with them to ensure they succeed.”

To make its programs possible, Girls Inc. relies on community support in the form of both volunteers and donations. This year, it is focusing its fundraising efforts around the theme of investment. “When you donate money to a youth organization like Girls Inc., what you’re really doing is investing in the future,” Jones says. “Your support continues from fostering educational and personal development in early childhood into internships and mentoring programs as young adults, and you’ll see a return on that investment as these young women become corporate, government and academic leaders. It’s not just about these young women’s futures, but those of their families and the community as well.”

One of the nonprofit’s largest annual fundraisers is its Strong, Smart and Bold Luncheon, which will be held Nov. 11 both virtually and in-person at The Ritz-Carlton. To further build on the investment theme, Edward Jones managing partner Penny Pennington will be honored, and the program will feature Girls Inc. alums and scholarship recipients. “We hope that the St. Louis community will be inspired to get involved,” Jones says. “We want to motivate people to invest in the future and help lift up the next generation of women.”

Girls Incorporated of St. Louis inspires all girls to be strong, smart and bold by providing educational, recreational, and cultural programs. Its annual Strong, Smart and Bold Luncheon is Nov. 11. Pictured on the cover: Edward Jones Managing Partner Penny Pennington, Raina Williams, Avionna Williams, McKenzie Fulani, Girls Inc. president and CEO Cheryl Jones. For more information, call 314.385.8088 or visit

Cover design by Julie Streiler
Cover photo by Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton Photography

Pictured at the top: Girls Inc. president and CEO Cheryl Jones, Edward Jones managing partner Penny Pennington
Photo: Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton Photography


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