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Women Leaders at BC: Molly Gilligan, A&S '15

If you haven’t yet heard of Boston College’s Science Club For Girls (SCFG), then you may be missing out on the chance to help young children in an empowering and uplifting way.

Molly Gilligan, A&S '15, has worked with SCFG since she was a freshman and now leads the club, in its admirable mission, as president. First and foremost, SCFG is a branch of a greater volunteer organization based out of Boston with chapters at Harvard University, MIT, Boston University, Northeastern University and other universities in the area. The group runs three clubs out of Thomas A. Edison K-8 School in Brighton, and visits elementary schools all over Boston teaching after-school science clubs for girls in grades K-5.

The women of Science Club For Girls assist young girls in performing highly interactive experiments, such as building rockets and bridges or making crystals. The ultimate goal in facilitating these experiments is not simply to have fun: SCFG aims to break down the racial, gender, and socioeconomic barriers that prevent so many women from pursuing careers in science.

There are so many women at BC who exude leadership, but Molly Gilligan goes above and beyond for SCFG. Gilligan did not simply join the club in an effort to boost her resume or make self-promoting contacts. “I suppose I chose [to join SCFG] more out of a desire to help kids than a desire to lead. Being the president of an organization is an experience I am incredibly grateful for, but a role I more so adopted out of necessity,” she said.

Gilligan credits her success in leading BC's chapter of SCFG partially to her team members.“I have continued to lead the organization at BC with the help of a lot of people, as leading is never a one-person job. My fellow college students and SCFG staff that participate are truly incredible," she said. "The club takes a lot of energy, resources, etc., and it's really cool to be able to work with such a group of people.”

SCFG doesn’t just stop at science experiments. Two of the group's greatest successes have been the speakers at the Annual Women’s Collaboration Speaker Event. Erin Brockovich spoke two years ago, and Elizabeth Smart spoke to a sold-out house last year. “Seeing the emotional reactions of people to Smart's story was incredibly powerful; I'm really happy that we were able to create an event that really spoke to a lot of people on campus,” Gilligan remarked.

SCFG has helped both BC women and young girls recognize their potential. BC girls are able to learn understanding, compassion, and leadership as young girls learn their worth and the enjoyment that science may bring. Gilligan said, “I've learned that women are incredibly adept to be leaders, and that leading with respect and appreciation for each person's individual contribution to the group is key.”

Molly, at left, working SCFG's booth at the Student Activities Fair in 2012. Photo courtesy of Molly Gilligan

Gilligan, on left, working SCFG's booth at the Student Activities Fair in 2012.
Photo courtesy of Molly Gilligan

Through her work with SCFG, Gilligan has recognized the ability that the organization has to empower every child that is involved. “Every single kid that you can reach out to, and help them realize that they can do whatever sort of career they want no matter where they come from, is really one of the most powerful things you can do,” Gilligan said. “I had one girl in the past, when I worked at a school in Cambridge, that told me that science club was her life. That was pretty powerful.”

Leading women and helping young girls seems second nature for Gilligan, and her ability is something to be admired.  “A lot of these kids don't come from perfect households, so giving them a safe and empowering environment is really an amazing thing to be able to do. Really every kid we can reach out to is a huge success in and of itself,” she said.

Gilligan plans to use her experience with SCFG in her future pursuits in global medicine. She plans to travel to Haiti this May with a global health organization based out of Boston Children’s Hospital to treat pediatric chronic illnesses, and her work with SCFG has prepared her for work with children. Gilligan believes that every child is worth the effort and deserves an opportunity to thrive, and her experience in SCFG has been invaluable in understanding that every child is created equally.

“The goals for this group were to both provide a way for the growing population of females in the sciences at BC to volunteer with a group that embodies their passion. Beyond this, the more important goal is to reach out to the kids. As females in science, we've all had the experience of being written off as less intelligent or capable by professors, fellow students, etc., solely based on out gender,” said Gilligan. “On a larger scale, students--both male and female--are often written off as less intelligent due to their ethnicity, race, socioeconomic standing, etc. Thus, we hoped to be able to reach out to kids and encourage them to follow their passions, to encourage kids to stick with what they love no matter what other people or society may tell them. We started the club believing that, if we could even reach out to just ONE kid, this whole thing would be worth it.”

Just in case you haven’t been inspired by an admirable, intelligent, and determined woman lately, you are welcome for this introduction to the vastly brilliant Molly Gilligan.

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