The first thing you need to know about Dr. Lisa Hinkelman is that she’s got an incredible laugh. It’s this big, vivacious, life-affirming laugh that comes straight from her toes, into the air, and moves you to laugh right along with her.
Lisa, often cloaked in black and pink, is not afraid to say what she thinks, laugh at herself, or to make you a part of the joke ~ this gal won’t leave your high-five hanging and, if she does, she’ll apologize with a big, hearty laugh.
“We are stronger, healthier, better adjusted, and more successful when we support one another,” Lisa said.
I was, of course, immediately drawn to her energy the first time I met her and wanted to learn more about how her nonprofit (501c3) organization, ROX (Ruling Our Experiences), came to be.
And that’s the second thing you need to know about this amazing woman: ROX came to be out of a gamble Lisa took. A risk. A desire to change the world, one girl at a time, and in doing so, become a powerhouse of Women Supporting Women.
“I think we do a great job talking about the importance of women supporting women, but we often struggle to actually implement the strategies that we verbalize,” Lisa said. “I don’t think anyone sets out to intentionally screw over other women, but the reality is that many of us can think of one or two experiences in our professional lives when another women was the one judging us, competing with us, undermining us or in some way negatively impacting our productivity, reputation, or happiness.”
And it’s not just grown women. According to Lisa, female competition over support starts much sooner than adulthood.
“In our research at ROX, we have found that more than 80 percent of fifth grade girls report that girls are in competition with one another ~ these are 10-year-old girls!” she said. “This disturbing trend unfortunately continues as girls grow up so that it’s no wonder by the time women are in the workforce, the competition, both personal and professional, is palatable.”
Because of that, ROX goes one step further and tries to tackle the problem at its roots. Lisa and her team of trained facilitators empower the next generation of females through school and community-based programming by teaching them how to handle behaviors such as girl bullying, low self-esteem, unhealthy dating relationships, and sexual violence.
“I believe that we have both the ability and the responsibility to change the conversation and the trajectory for girls,” Lisa said.
And she took her responsibility seriously as a researcher and faculty member in Counselor Education at The Ohio State University in 2006, where she had been running a program that helped girls navigate the challenges of, well, “being a girl.” She, along with her research team, gathered statistics for five years through this program. Lisa then used those facts and figures to develop an evidence-based curriculum for girls in elementary, middle, and high school, that supported them in developing skills to meet the above-mentioned challenges.
ROX uses licensed facilitators to teach the curriculum in schools throughout Central Ohio, and the country, at a cost of approximately $75 per girl ~ which your donations help support. ROX also provides professional development for educators and counselors, as well as parent workshops. Read more about the story behind ROX here.
“When girls have the opportunity to learn from strong and caring female role models who are true champions for one another, their sense of themselves and their options changes,” Lisa said.
My own daughter, Kerrigan, benefited from ROX training. She was one of nearly 1,700 school-age girls in communities across the country last year that were were empowered by Lisa and her team. Kerrigan’s favorite part of the programming was learning how to properly kick and punch an assailant. She left the training feeling truly equipped to deal with the world; and the relationships she built with the girls in attendance proved to be effective when she later encountered issues in school.
In fact, my daughter’s favorite tank top is one she got from ROX, which reads something close to, “Be the doctor they told you to marry.” And she plans on it ~ a veterinarian, to be exact.
This year ROX will be offered for the first time in New Mexico, Guam, Florida, and Hawaii. See where a ROX program is near you, here.
Lisa continues to move forward in her work having just completed The Girls’ Index study. The comprehensive survey of more than 10,000 girls focuses on the perceptions of girls in grades 5-12 on many major social, personal, and academic issues, such as: friendships and relationships, social media, body image pressure, self-esteem and confidence, leadership, and career aspirations. Initial findings tell a “compelling story of the challenges facing girls today.”
Lisa didn’t have to go out and change the world the way she has for women and their daughters. She could have stayed on at OSU and continued a different research project ~ but helping women and young women become better, become stronger, is an ideal she is absolutely devoted to. And that’s the thing I love most about her ~ she does what she knows to be right for women, using evidence-based research, and empowering women and young girls to go live life without fear that they are “just a girl.”
No, you be the girl you’ve always wanted to be. And if you don’t know how, Lisa will certainly be able to help.
“We can be the women who create the authentic and genuine shift that will allow girls to see the strength and beauty in female relationships,” said Lisa. “And then they can come to invest in and value these relationships for themselves.”