Closing The Gender Gap in Sports

In the dynamic world of sports, where athletes push their physical and mental limits, it's disheartening to see a persistent gender gap. While strides have been made in recent years, there's still much work to be done to ensure equality on and off the field. The journey to closing this gap is not just about sports; it's a societal transformation that challenges ingrained beliefs and aims to redefine the narrative of athleticism.

The Historical Imbalance

Historically, the world of sports has been male-dominated, with opportunities for female athletes severely limited. This imbalance has permeated various aspects of the sporting realm, from unequal pay to a lack of media coverage and sponsorship opportunities for women. As we delve into the quest to close the gender gap, it's crucial to acknowledge the deep-rooted challenges that female athletes have faced and continue to overcome.

Breaking Stereotypes

One significant step towards closing the gender gap is to break down stereotypes associated with female athletes. The prevailing notion that women are not as physically capable as men is being shattered by the impressive performances of female athletes across various disciplines. Women are not just redefining athleticism; they are challenging societal norms and inspiring a new generation to view sports as a realm where gender is inconsequential to success.

Increasing Visibility

Visibility is a powerful tool for challenging stereotypes and biases. Efforts are being made to increase media coverage for women's sports, showcasing their talent and achievements to a broader audience. This shift not only shines the spotlight on female role models for young athletes but also challenges preconceived notions about the level of competition and excitement in women's sports. As we witness a surge in visibility, we witness a simultaneous dismantling of barriers that have long hindered the progress of female athletes.

Equal Opportunities

Creating equal opportunities for both female and male athletes is a fundamental pillar in closing the gender gap. This includes providing equal funding, facilities, and support for women's sports. Organizations are now recognizing the importance of investing in women's sports not only as a matter of fairness but also as a strategic move to tap into a broader audience base. The call for equality echoes not just in stadiums but in boardrooms and policy discussions, signaling a collective commitment to transforming the sports landscape.

Empowering Future Generations

The journey toward equality is not just about today's athletes; it's about paving the way for a future where every girl feels empowered to step onto the field, court, or track without hesitation. Empowering young girls to pursue their athletic dreams is vital to closing the gender gap. Initiatives dedicated to encouraging girls to participate in sports are gaining momentum. By instilling confidence and breaking down barriers early on, the next generation of female athletes will be better equipped to challenge the status quo. 

Celebrating Success Stories

Highlighting the success stories of female athletes is a powerful way to inspire others. From groundbreaking achievements to overcoming obstacles, the stories of inspiring women on the playing field serve as a testament to the resilience and capability of women in any field. Celebrating these successes helps shift the narrative from what girls and women 'can't do' to what they 'have done.' Each success is a step closer to rewriting the narrative, proving that excellence knows no gender.

The Road Ahead

While progress has been made, there is still much work left to do to close the gender gap in sports for good. Continued advocacy, policy changes, and societal shifts are essential to ensure that female athletes receive the recognition and opportunities they deserve. The road ahead is paved with the collective determination to challenge the norms, celebrate diversity, and champion the incredible talents of female athletes.

Closing the gender gap in sports is a necessary step toward building a more inclusive and diverse sporting world. To contribute to this movement, consider supporting Play Like a Girl today. Together, we can create a future where athletes are celebrated for their talent, regardless of gender. 

Let's level the playing field.

Corporate Employee Volunteer Grant Programs

The added bonus to volunteering

What do Verizon, CarMax, and State Farm all have in common? They all offer volunteer grant programs.

Volunteer grant programs, also known as “Dollars for Doers” programs, are charitable giving programs set up by companies to reward employees for giving back to their communities.

Companies provide monetary donations to eligible nonprofits like Play Like a Girl as a way to recognize employees who volunteer. These grants enable corporations to give back to their communities and support organizations that employees are already passionate about.

Although volunteer grants are a relatively new form of corporate giving, they’re widely offered among Fortune 500 companies and are catching on at smaller companies, too. For instance:

  • Verizon’s Volunteer Program provides $750 grants for 50 volunteer hours.
  • State Farm’s Good Neighbor Grant Program recognizes employees with a $500 grant for 40 volunteer hours.
  • CarMax’s Volunteer Grant Program awards $10 for every hour volunteered up to $10,000.

In fact, hundreds of companies offer volunteer grant programs with donations generally ranging from $10-15 per hour volunteered. Basically, this means that Play Like a Girl will not only receive the help provided by our amazing volunteers, but we’ll be given monetary support from their employers as well!

How do volunteer grant programs work?

Volunteer grant programs are an easy way for volunteers to secure an additional monetary contribution for our organization without having to take out their checkbooks.

Volunteer grant programs consist of five steps:

  1. Employee volunteers with Play Like a Girl!
  2. Employee volunteers determine if their company offers volunteer grants — you can search for your employer’s volunteer grant guidelines at to find company-specific program guidelines, requirements, and forms.
  3. Employee volunteers submit the grant request, either electronically or using a paper form.
  4. Nonprofit validates the grant request — we confirm for the individual’s employer that the individual is in fact a volunteer with our organization.
  5. Company sends us a check.

If you’re already volunteering with us, please take a few minutes to check if your employer (or your spouse’s employer) offers volunteer grants: — grants that could equal hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars for us to put toward furthering our mission.

Want to help?

Last year we received over 100 matching gifts and volunteer grants, which helped us raise nearly $20,000. Our goal is to raise $25,000 this year. If we meet our goal, we’ll be able to better make good on our mission to level the playing field for girls and women everywhere.

You can immediately gain access to detailed program guidelines offered by your employer and assess your eligibility by searching our database of companies that offer volunteer grant programs.

We’ll provide you with as much of the following as possible:

  • Up-to-date, company-specific program guidelines
  • Minimum volunteer hours required to qualify for a matching donation
  • Links to the online matching gift request forms or downloadable PDFs offered by your employer
  • Our contact information (Tax ID, address, fundraising contact), which you may need for your matching gift request

If your company isn’t listed, make sure to check with HR as there are many additional companies out there who offer volunteer grant programs.

We wish we could submit the required form for you, but unfortunately the employee must submit the volunteer grant request to their employer directly. We appreciate you taking a few minutes to double your impact!

Corporate Employee Matching Programs

The secret to boosting revenue

For nonprofit organizations, every dollar counts. Corporate employee matching gifts offer the opportunity to turn one dollar donated to Play Like a Girl by a match-eligible employee into two, three, four—or even five dollars!

In this article, we’re going to explore exactly what to expect when working with matching gifts and how to make the most of this incredible fundraising opportunity for the benefit of the girls we serve.

What are corporate matching gift programs?

Employee matching gift programs are a type of corporate philanthropy set up to encourage employees to give back to their communities. These companies encourage community outreach by making donations to the same nonprofits that their employees have donated to. And, yes, that includes Play Like a Girl!

These programs have become quite widespread, but many donors have not heard of them or aren’t aware of their own match-eligibility. $4 to 7 billion in matching gift revenue is left on the table each year, and we want to work with our donors to claim some of it to help advance our mission to level the playing field for girls and women.

The specifics of these programs vary from company to company, but the elements that shape these guidelines are always the same:

  • Match ratio: This defines what kind of donation the company will make in relation to the employee’s initial contribution. A 1:1 ratio indicates that the company will donate the exact same amount, doubling the contribution to Play Like a Girl.
  • Minimum and maximum: The minimum refers to the amount an employee must donate to qualify for a matching gift. The maximum is the total amount that a company will donate in matching contributions per employee annually.
  • Employee status: Sometimes, the employee’s role at the company can affect the match for which they qualify. For example, Gap Inc. offers a $1,000 maximum match to part-time employees and a $10,000 maximum to Senior VPs.
  • Nonprofit eligibility: Some programs offer different matches based on the nonprofit to which funds are being donated. ExxonMobil offers a higher match for donations made to educational institutions than for donations made to cultural organizations.
  • Deadline: Every program identifies a deadline when the matching gift request must be submitted by the employee. This deadline can be either a firm date (December 31st is common) or a threshold based on the date of the initial donation (90 days after donation is made). We encourage you to search your inbox for all Play Like a Girl donation receipts, total your gifts, and submit your matching gift request as soon as possible.

Thousands of companies offer matching gift programs. A few examples include:

  • Johnson & Johnson triples donations with a 2:1 match for current employees while also doubling donations (a 1:1 match) for retirees.
  • Bank of America matches donations 1:1 up to $5,000 annually per employee.
  • Home Depot matches donations 1:1 up to $3,000 annually per employee.

The impact of these programs on grassroots organizations like Play Like a Girl can be substantial! Microsoft has been known to match over $48 million worth of employee donations to schools and 501(c)(3) nonprofits in a single year. Did you know that more than 18 million employees work for companies with matching gift programs? You might be one of them.

Want to help Play Like a Girl?

Last year we received over 100 matching gifts, which helped us raise nearly $20,000. We’ve set a goal of raising $25,000 from these programs this year. If we meet our goal, we’ll be able to better make good on our mission to level the playing field for girls and women everywhere.

You can help us reach these goals by searching for your own match-eligibility. Immediately assess your eligibility and gain access to detailed information about your employer’s corporate giving program by clicking here to search our database of companies with matching gift programs.

We’ll provide you with as much of the following as possible:

  • Up-to-date, company-specific program guidelines 
  • Links to the online matching gift request forms or downloadable PDFs offered by your employer
  • Our contact information (Tax ID: 33-1149207, address, fundraising contact), which you may need for your matching gift request

If your company isn’t listed, make sure to check with the HR department. It’s still possible that your employer offers matching gifts.

We wish we could submit the required form for you, but unfortunately the employee must submit the matching gift request to their employer directly. 

We appreciate you taking a few minutes to double your donation!

Employee Giving Programs

The key to unlocking extra revenue

Employee giving programs offer an exciting opportunity to educational institutions and nonprofit organizations including Play Like a Girl. Each dollar you donate could be doubled, tripled, or more, and every hour you volunteer could come with a monetary contribution as well.

Over the next several weeks, we will explore two of the most popular forms of corporate philanthropy:

  • Employee matching gifts: Donations offered by companies to Play Like a Girl for donations you make or have already made.
  • Volunteer grants: Monetary contributions made by a company to Play Like a Girl when you mentor a girl, serve on the board or volunteer in any other way.

Let’s dive in!

What are corporate matching gift and employee volunteer grant programs?

Corporate matching gift programs are charitable giving programs created by corporations in which the company matches donations made by employees to educational institutions or nonprofit organizations. Donors can double their impact by utilizing the matching gift programs that are in place at thousands of companies.

Employee giving programs have been around since 1954, when the GE Foundation created its Corporate Alumni Program, the first corporate matching gift program. Today, the GE Foundation matches over $35 million annually to accredited educational institutions (including K-12) and 501(c)(3) organizations like Play Like a Girl. Since then, thousands of companies have created similar employee giving programs.

The most common match ratio is 1:1, meaning that the company will donate the exact same amount as the employee did. Each company will set a dollar amount that they will contribute in matching gifts per employee each year. Employees can then make as many matching gift requests as they like until they hit that maximum dollar amount.

Volunteer grant programs, also known as “Dollars for Doers” programs, are charitable giving programs setup by companies to provide a monetary donation to eligible nonprofits where their employees volunteer as a way to encourage community engagement.

If you volunteer for Play Like a Girl and work for a company with a volunteer grant program, you can request a volunteer grant from your employer to increase your impact.

These volunteer grants can be set amounts ($750 for 50 hours volunteered) or hourly amounts ($10 per hour volunteered).

How prevalent are corporate giving programs?

Corporate giving programs have gotten more popular with time. More than 65% of Fortune 500 companies offer matching gift or volunteer grant programs, and countless smaller companies have followed suit.

Some companies have gotten creative with their corporate giving, offering higher matches to organizations in a specific sector (educational, cultural, environmental, etc.), for employees who serve on a nonprofit board or even matching funds raised by employees in peer-to-peer campaigns.

A few examples of these programs include:

  • Verizon provides $750 grants for 50 volunteer hours and matches up to $5,000 annually
  • IBM provides $1,000 grants to nonprofits where an employee has volunteered for 40 hours. They also match up to $5,000 annually for current employees or retirees.
  • BP, in addition to similarly generous matching gift and volunteer grant programs, matches funds raised for nonprofit walks, runs, etc. and offers every employee an annual $300 grant to donate to any nonprofit organization, no initial donation or volunteering required!

Thousands of companies, representing more than 18 million people, offer matching gift or volunteer grant programs.

Will you help us reach our goal?

Last year, Play Like a Girl received over 100 matching gifts and volunteer grants, which helped us raise nearly $20,000 more than years prior. This year, we hope to increase the amount raised from these programs. If we meet our goal, we’ll be able to make good on our mission to level the playing field for girls and women everywhere. 

You can help us reach these goals by searching for your own match-eligibility. Immediately gain access to detailed information about your employer’s corporate giving programs and assess your eligibility by searching our database of companies that offer employee matching.

We’ll provide you with as much of the following as possible:

  • Up-to-date, company-specific program guidelines
  • Minimum volunteer hours required to qualify for a matching donation
  • Links to the online matching gift request forms or downloadable PDFs offered by your employer
  • Our contact information (Tax ID, address, fundraising contact), which you may need for your matching gift request

We hope you’ll take a few extra minutes to see if your company offers employee giving grants that could equal hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars for Play Like a Girl!

Impact Story: Emma Grace Clonan

Emma Grace Clonan graduates from the International Baccalaureate Program at Oakland High School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee this spring, but the young golfer has even bigger plans. 

She made history last month as the first Play Like a Girl alumna to sign a letter of intent to continue her athletic career while pursuing a degree in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) next year at Maryville College in the Great Smoky Mountains.

“Knowing what you want and going for it takes courage, but it is so worth it to reach for the stars,” Clonan said at the 3rd annual Women’s Leadership Summit, a women’s empowerment event commemorating Women’s History Month.

See more of Emma and the event here.

The aspiring neuroscientist shared her aspirations during a keynote conversation with television sports reporter, Samaria Terry, at GEODIS Park — home to Major League Soccer’s Nashville SC which hosted the event as part of its International Women’s Day celebration. 

Emma also received the 2023 Play Like a Girl Honors award for her scholarship, service, sportspersonship, and spirit. Emma told the crowd that she wants to continue to inspire other girls and young women.

For the past 15 years, Play Like a Girl has recognized amazing individuals including the legendary Louisiana State University women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey and 2017 US Open finalist Madison Keys, who are making a difference in our mission to level the playing field for girls and women.

Each honoree receives a personalized, hand-carved award crafted using sustainable wood that won’t harm the environment. Details describing the honoree’s exceptional contributions are etched into the wood. On one side, a quote or personal characteristic that embodies their mission. On the other side, the Play Like a Girl mission is included as a reminder of the honoree’s connection to our work. Each award, like Emma and her fellow Play Like a Girl Honorees, is one of a kind.

At graduation, Emma will receive honors as a member of the National Honor Society—finishing in the top 10% of her class. This academic distinction is determined by the cumulative grade point average earned at Oakland. She is the recipient of the Dan and Melanie Mays McGill Fellowship, the most prestigious academic award available to incoming first-year and transfer students who enroll at Maryville College.

With support from our dedicated and passionate network of monthly donors whom we call our SQUAD, Emma’s Play Like a Girl Honors award included a $2,500 scholarship to cover book expenses left over after the McGill scholarship is applied. It is our hope that this modest scholarship will remove any remaining barrier to Emma successfully completing her first year of college, keeping her in the game and winning for years to come.

Emma has been an elite golfer throughout her time at Oakland. She has played varsity for four years, and ended her final season as the 2022 Regional Golf Champion. But, of course, that’s only the beginning of this young woman’s story.

In addition to being a stellar student-athlete, Emma is serving and shaping the world as a leader in the classroom, on campus and in her community. She led her team in her final season of golf. She is also an active member and leader of several student organizations including Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Best Buddies

The past several years, Emma has taught golf basics to Play Like a Girl participants and recently joined our team as an intern supporting our girls and staff in incredible ways

“I love teaching golf to other girls, and I'm so honored whenever I get to introduce beginners to the sport,” she said. “I feel great knowing that I can play a part in other young ladies’ journeys to fall in love with golf—just like I have.”

Play Like a Girl congratulates Emma and her family on this historic and well-deserved opportunity. We were excited to witness her final season as an Oakland Patriot and are eager to support her on her new journey as a Maryville Scot!


About Play Like a Girl Impact Stories

Play Like a Girl is at the forefront of the drive to level the playing field for girls because we envision a world where all girls have the confidence and opportunity to become unstoppable women. Towards that end, we endeavor to leverage the skills girls gain from sport to help propel young women into competitive, male-dominated careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Our impact stories series illustrates the human impact of Play Like a Girl’s work across the United States and the world, often highlighting the donors and partnerships that make this work possible. These stories share how we and our many supporters  are working to realize a better world for girls and women—one of equity and empowerment because that is what we do and who we are, as a leader, connector, and provider of programs.

Corporations Compete, Have Fun and Do Good

Nashville companies face off in the 2022 Play Like a Girl On the Green Charity Golf Scramble at Brentwood Country Club on June 27.

Golf courses are not typically home to corporate team building events. But this isn’t a typical day for Nashville companies.

Last summer, roughly 200 people broke free from their day jobs to attend Play Like a Girl’s inaugural On the Green, essentially a golf play day for grown-ups. Teams from more than 30 companies competed in an 18-hole golf game and various on-course contests nearby at The Grove.

Dr. Kimberly Clay, founder and CEO for Play Like a Girl, is optimistic the 2022 tournament will get close to her goal of raising $100,000.

On the Green was immediately a hit with golfers and non-golfers alike in 2021, in part, because it provides companies with a healthy way to build team camaraderie and employee morale while helping Play Like a Girl connect with companies and donors who may not have interacted with the organization in the past.

“On the Green is a great door-opener for us to engage companies of all sizes as well as the leading women, senior executives and Employee Resource Groups within those companies,” Clay said.

Play Like a Girl On the Green will take place at the beautiful Brentwood Country Club, a private 18-hole golf course located at 5123 Country Club Drive just off Franklin Road in the heart of Brentwood, on Monday, June 27, 2022.  As one of Nashville’s only majority female golf tournaments, this iconic event includes both female and male flights.

Play Like a Girl has teamed up with First Tee of Tennessee to again host the LPGA Girls Golf Clinic at 10:00 a.m. before the shotgun start on June 27. This exclusive girls golf experience features a host of free activities designed to inspire the next generation of women golfers and business leaders.

Participants in the tournament can compete in the four-person scramble event as an individual or as part of a company team, completing several on-course contests including closest to the pin and longest drive.

Registration for both the tournament and golf clinic for girls is now open at


Corporate teams also have the opportunity to raise funds for the Play Like a Girl Scholarship Fund—building a pipeline of diverse young women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Teams that start fundraising ahead of the event can earn extra points in the competition.


Over 120 leaders from over 30 companies competed in the inaugural tournament. Bridgestone Americas was named top fundraising team. Nashville's newest architecture firm, Gensler, is already a breakout for the 2022 competition with Bridgestone leading again this year.

On the Green uses a four-person scramble format which allows corporate teams of four to play the course in a best ball format designed for players of all abilities. Team members all hit from the same spot on each shot, with the team selecting the best ball for their next shot. This continues until completion of the hole.

This format generally eliminates the need to take penalty shots or hit from the woods or bunkers as one team member usually puts the ball in a good position. The team format of a scramble allows for lower scores, quicker rounds, and team spirit not found in the stroke play format.

The tournament draws women and men from all across the country, the state and the city of Nashville. Scores will be ranked on a combination of performance and participation, with teams being scored by the top finishers flighted by gender, as well as the total dollar amount a company raises for charity.

The winning team will hold the custom-designed trophy as well as bragging rights for the next year. There will also be an award for the top fundraising team. Last year, 121 players representing over 30 companies nationwide raised $215,000.

Home Medical Products, Inc. (HMP) won On the Green in 2021 and will be returning to defend their title in this year’s competition. Bridgestone Americas took the award for top fundraising team. From golfers to non-golfers, entry-level employees to C-Suite executives, and start-ups to large corporations – everyone is welcome.

Tournament and clinic registration and corporate sponsorship opportunities are available at

Sign up to volunteer at

Girls Put Math Skills to the Test at Meet + Mentor Memphis

Play Like a Girl recently held its second Meet + Mentor day camp for middle school girls, this time in Memphis. Academy Sports + Outdoors staff, University of Alabama strength and conditioning coach Michelle Martin Diltz, and Memphis Redbirds employee volunteers participated in the event.

Girls were divided into small teams after hearing from a team of female architects who led construction of AutoZone Park, the stadium and ballpark the Redbirds call home. Students were given the task to build a play structure for younger Redbirds fans’ enjoyment.

The teams created play structures using LEGO bricks as a learning tool to practice building and learning advanced STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) concepts in a fun, hands-on way. Each team was provided a wide range of LEGO bricks and accessories – such as doors, windows, etc. – for which each color was assigned a specific dollar value. 

With a budget of $1 million, teams needed to think carefully about what they wanted to build and what bricks they needed versus which would be nice to have. Then they made a plan for how to spend their money toward completion of their structures. Some teams even drew out a design for their play structures before building a prototype using the LEGO bricks.

While this activity took some time and was difficult for some struggling learners, it was a good hands-on activity that made budgeting and engineering design concepts more concrete for students. The activity promoted problem-solving and was perfect for teams with strong verbal communicators and those organized around each student’s strengths. And an added bonus: This project was deeply satisfying because the girls got to create something of their own, on their own. 

Structures featured playgrounds with interactive games for kids, a picnic deck, mazes, a kid dugout and slide, video game stations, face painters, balloon artists, and a carousel and a ferris wheel. All except one structure came within the budget. Students’ final products were judged by a jury of their peers. Members of the winning team were awarded their own LEGO set to continue building and learning.

Employee volunteers from the Redbirds led a career panel before breaking into small groups to informally mentor the girls and answer questions about their college choices and career paths. 

Camp ended with short skills rotations where Michelle instructed campers on facets of the game including hitting, fielding, pitching, and team play. Running, jumping, and stretching were also stressed. 

With extensive subject matter expertise, expert instruction, quality facilities and a challenging and motivating learning environment that brought together individuals of all ages and backgrounds, this Meet + Mentor experience ignited moments of discovery where students were able to connect STEM to their futures.

Hosted by Play Like a Girl, Meet + Mentor is an ongoing celebration of local girls and the women role models who inspire them. These events bring together Academy employees, brand ambassadors and corporate volunteers. 

Participating students will be featured in a three-part YouTube series showcased across Academy’s social channels late this summer.

Photos from the Memphis event


View from the Green

Highlights from the inaugural Play Like a Girl On the Green charity golf scramble

The first-ever Play Like a Girl On the Green charity golf scramble was one for the record books. Held June 14 at The Grove, a golf course community located just south of Nashville, the event combined record heat with record funds raised for our mission to level the playing field for girls in sport and STEM. We raised a game-changing $215,000 and counting for Play Like a Girl! While that sinks in, click the images below to check out some of our favorite photos from the day:

Learning to play

We started the day 100% on mission: We invited area girls, many of whom had never stepped foot on a green, to a girls-only golf clinic funded by the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and supported by First Tee of Tennessee. After warming up with a freestyle dance, girls broke into groups to learn how to drive, putt and chip. They showed up that morning looking a little shy and uncertain; they left with smiles and lots of confidence.

A brush with royalty

Following the golf clinic, girls enjoyed some time up close and personal with Miss Tennessee 2021 Elizabeth Graham Pistole, who served as honorary chair for the event. Elizabeth signed autographs, posed for photos, answered questions and offered words of encouragement. She even let the girls try on her tiara! It may have been the sparkle of her crown that caught the girls’ attention, but it was her kindness and thoughtful words that dazzled the girls and adults alike. 

A girls’ game

Among the foursomes teeing off at Play Like a Girl On the Green was one led by honorary chair and Play Like a Girl alumna Emma Clonan. Now a high school golfer with her sights set on playing the sport in college, Emma led an ice breaker activity to get the girls warmed up for the Junior Girls Golf clinic preceding the tournament. She has played The Grove’s course countless times, and knows exactly what the girls need to overcome their anxieties about a sport they’ve never played on such an amazing but, perhaps, intimidating course. 

Meteorologist and Tournament Co-Chair Meaghan Thomas of WKRN News Channel 2 filmed the 11 a.m. weather segment from the practice range as her colleague and fellow co-chair Kristina Roche took a shot in the background. This dynamic duo then golfed the full 18 holes. But they never did apologize for the heat.

Ladies first

Men, of course, were encouraged to join us—and in fact, it was the men’s teams that took home the top tournament awards—but this charity golf scramble attracted an awful lot of ladies. Of the 101 golfers registered, more than 75% percent were women. Now if we could only see those types of numbers in the C-suite, we’d be in business!

In fulfillment of our mission

What better way to celebrate a big day of fundraising than to immediately pay it forward? After the tournament awards were announced, we surprised these five young women as the first-ever recipients of the Dr. Stephanie Hightower Memorial Scholarship, which supports girls and women of color pursuing degrees in medicine or STEM. They each received $3,500 to help complete their studies at Alabama A&M University, Hampton University, Meharry Medical College and Xavier University of Louisiana—the latter two are Dr. Hightower’s alma maters. She was a longtime Play Like a Girl volunteer who lost her battle with cancer in 2018.

Brand ambassadors from leading companies and local boutique shops like Earth Rides, Glow Girl, the Tennessee Titans, and Tate + Zoey were stationed throughout the golf course. They all had something different to offer, from eco-friendly rideshares to on-the-go organic spray tans, but were all united by their shared passion for our mission.

We capped a long day of fun and celebration with our annual “Women in the Round” songwriters night. Country music artists Julia Cole, Taylor Edwards and Caroline Watkins took turns telling stories and belting hits. The fact that they managed to rock a tired, sweaty audience after a long day in 90-degree weather is a true testament to their talents!

Thank you! 

We couldn’t have done it without you and your support of our mission. And we can’t wait for you to see what’s in store with our newest sponsor, Academy Sports + Outdoors. We’re hitting the road with them for a three-city Meet + Mentor tour. It starts in Tulsa, Oklahoma, makes a pit stop in Memphis, Tennessee, and ends in Katy, Texas, at Academy’s headquarters, where girls will get their first peek into a company dedicated to advancing girls and women in sports. It’s such an exciting time at Play Like a Girl, and we’re so glad you’ve decided to join us for the ride

If you missed the tournament, don’t worry—we’re already planning the next one. We also invite you to join us in other ways. Check out our events calendar for ways to get involved. 

Benefits of Mentoring for Girls and Young Women

Pairing girls with mentors early on paves the way for a brighter future

Before Katherine Johnson began calculating trips to the moon for NASA, she had mentors.

Johnson, whose story was immortalized in the 2016 movie “Hidden Figures,” was inspired to turn her knack for numbers into a groundbreaking career as a research mathematician by two mentors. The first was her geometry teacher Angie Turner King, who nurtured the preteen’s interest in math and modeled what was possible for her. Another mentor was Johnson’s college professor W.W. Schieffelin Claytor, who created advanced math courses for her and encouraged her to push beyond the boundaries of her race and gender. These mentors helped change the trajectory of Johnson’s life and enabled her to break into a field with few women at the time, where she made history for her contributions to space exploration.

This is just one example of the power of mentorship. Research shows the many benefits mentoring can have for girls (and boys), from improved school attendance and lower dropout rates to higher rates of graduation, college enrollment and higher aspirations overall. But the greatest impact of mentoring comes from showing students what’s possible for their lives. 

Ask any little girl what she wants to be when she grows up, and you’ll hear a variety of answers: teacher, nurse, dancer, veterinarian, etc. But how often do you hear answers like research scientist, engineer, computer programmer or company CEO? This may be because girls envision their future based on the role models they can see. If they can see it, they’re more likely to believe they can be it. 

Closing the Gender Gap with Mentors 

Though women have made tremendous strides in the workplace, even since Katherine Johnson’s day, they still lag behind men in salaries and opportunities.

Women make about 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to 2019 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, with women of color making even less. They are also broadly underrepresented in many senior leadership roles across industries, according to a 2020 Women in the Workplace study by McKinsey and While the number of female CEOs on the Fortune 500 list reached a record high of 41 this year, women make up just eight percent of those leading Fortune 500 companiesand only two are Black women. 

Lack of ambition is not to blame. Women are more likely than men to aspire to be in management roles, but they have fewer sponsors in the C-suite championing their advancement, the McKinsey study notes. 

This brings us back to mentors. They are key to leveling the playing field for girls of all backgrounds and closing the gender gap that keeps so many capable young women from advancing up the career ladder. 

A study of female engineering students showed that those who were assigned female mentors experienced more belonging, motivation and confidenceand were more likely to remain in the field, according to the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America). Individuals with mentors typically go on to perform better at their jobs, earn higher salaries and land promotions faster than those without them, other studies show. 

Linda Hope, who runs a successful business for Beautycounter, which sells safer skin care and cosmetics directly to women, credits her success as an entrepreneur to the wisdom and guidance she gained from her mentors. 

“One of the greatest values of surrounding yourself with great mentors is that you can learn in less than an hour what it took them a lifetime to figure out,” she says. 

Value of Starting Early 

Mentorship needs to happen long before women enter the workplace. At Play Like a Girl, we believe it should start as early as middle school when girls are beginning to form their opinions about the world around them and contemplate what they want to do in the future. 

This is especially important for girls from less affluent backgrounds, who often lack the opportunities others have to network with successful individuals who can help them jump-start their careers. 

Whatever their background or education, one thing is certain: The sooner girls are exposed to and have a chance to learn from positive female role models across a variety of roles and fields, the better prepared they will be to think imaginatively and limitlessly about their future and tackle the obstacles they encounter with confidence and courage.

Mentoring is a cornerstone of our work at Play Like a Girl. Over the past 16 years, we have reached over 25,000 girls through mentorship, summer camps, field trips, sports outings, virtual activities and more. Through our Meet + Mentor program, we match middle school girls (ages 10-13) with women working in STEM+ jobs throughout all industries. Our mentors support these girls in their efforts to develop the academic and life skills necessary to succeed. The latest Meet + Mentor program just wrapped up at the end of May, and we’re eager to share the stories of the girls and women who were impacted by the power of mentorship, so stay tuned for more.

In Tulsa, Memphis or Houston/Katy this June or July? Then, register middle school girls in your life for our free Meet + Mentor day camps in a city near you. Visit to sign up today.

Meet Hannah Selders

Play Like a Girl Alumna Turned College Intern Epitomizes The Power of Mentorship 

Hannah Selders has been involved with Play Like a Girl since the tender age of 10. In fact, it was at her second Play Like a Girl event where she would meet her future mentor, Sherrell. 

“That was a life-changing moment for me,” Hannah says. “She was the big sister that I never had growing up. Over the years, we would attend events together, and she was always there to support me inside and outside of Play Like a Girl.” 

Hannah says that although she was involved with other programs growing up, she never felt the same keen sense of connection and belonging that she did with Play Like a Girl. 

“I was given the chance to stay active through sports while being creative with arts and crafts,” she says. “I was having so much fun, and I also had my mentor. Sherrell always made sure I was OK, and I knew that we could talk about anything.”  

Hannah says her bond with her mentor instilled within her a self-confidence and self-worth that has stayed with her, inspiring her to prioritize mentorship as an adult.

“I learned how to be confident in any room that I walk into,” she says. “Play Like a Girl always reminded me that I deserve a seat at every table. No matter how hard things get, I know I can overcome them.” 

Now a sophomore at Hampton University in Virginia, Hannah is a business administration major in the school’s five-year M.B.A. program, with a minor in music. It’s not often that a college student already boasts the title of CEO, but then again, this isn’t just any college student. EsiNiara is Hannah’s homemade jewelry and accessory business that she built, in part, to inspire young girls to harness their creativity. 

The poster child for our mission, Hannah is currently interning with Play Like a Girl to help put the “art” in STEM+ by demonstrating the value art brings to STEM through a series of blogs, videos and social posts. 

“From fashion tips to how to find your personal style, I want girls to let their creativity shine through everything they do,” she says. “I have the responsibility of showing girls how art plays a significant role in STEM/STEAM and how to incorporate art into other fields and industries, while learning about it more through my research.”

Hannah’s work with Play Like a Girl is not only a testament to the quiet power of mentorship, but also a reminder of how artists and scientists make natural partners by approaching problems with the same open-mindedness, curiosity and fearlessness. After all, DaVinci himself said: “Art is the queen of all sciences communicating knowledge to all the generations of the world.” 

Once she graduates, Hannah hopes to land a job working as a marketer in the fashion industry. Whatever direction her career takes, one thing is for sure: She already possesses the poise and tenacity to succeed at whatever she sets out to accomplish.