A Smart Girls co-founder and former Saturday Night Live talent executive brings her special brand of humor and mentorship to the second annual Pay Equity Summit at Montana Tech on Saturday.
Meredith Walker, business partner with former SNL comedian Amy Poehler, gives the keynote speech. She visits from Austin, Texas, where she runs Smart Girls as the executive director.
Her talk ties in with women leaders, entrepreneurs and mentoring.
“Smart Girls at the Party” is a Web series featuring Poehler, who creates and hosts various segments about the common girl’s life passions. Walker is the producer.
Comic relief is integral to the series, as each video ends with a girl-infused “dance party,” according to a New York Times article. Creativity abounds, reflecting Poehler’s on-stage comedy chops and Walker’s gift for finding such talent.
Smart Girls encourages girls to volunteer, be themselves, and be more curious about the world in which they live.
They encourage creativity in girls, as if to say, “It’s OK to have confidence in your ideas, your innovative thinking, your voice.”
“Smart Girls at the Party” has its own YouTube channel. It includes serious interviews, too. Poehler interviews actress Taylor Holland, for example, about writing and performing her one-woman stage show "Ann," about the life of former Texas Governor Ann Richards.
Walker and Poehler worked at SNL in the early 2000s. But Poehler has been especially busy lately wrapping up her highly successful NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation," hosting the Golden Globes with SNL comedy cast colleague Tina Fey, and other film and television projects.
Notably, Walker later worked with journalist Linda Ellerbee in “Nick News With Linda Ellerbee” in 2003.
The impetus for forming Smart Girls came from their own experience, Walker told The Montana Standard earlier this week:
“Amy and I talked a lot about our pre-teen and teen years and remembered how good it felt when someone wanted to hear what we had to say, when someone let us be our goofy selves,” she said. “We wanted to provide a healthy alternative to so much that is being marketed to young people on the Internet.”
Pam Haxby-Cote, a summit organizer, Blackstone LaunchPad regional director with Headwaters RC&D in Butte, is responsible for bringing Walker to Butte. She took a chance and simply contacted Walker via the Smart Girls website.
“I follow her on the Smart Girls Facebook page because it’s so close to what we do with our Gems,” said Haxby-Cote. “Their mission has great value to it. I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we got her out here?'”
Gems stands for Girls Excelling in Math and Science. For Butte area girls, it’s a free local club held after school. Relying on experienced mentors to teach science, technology, engineering and math, the club draws girls from the vulnerable fifth-to-eighth-grade age group when they are most impressionable.
Studies show that girls in that age group tend to hold back or not assert themselves in math or science classes at school when boys are encouraged to be vocal and assertive.
While Smart Girls deals with myriad self-esteem issues and girls’ interests, Walker said she and Poehler approach serious issues such as women’s pay equity with a peacemaker’s perspective:
“We like to present the facts and let our community decide the rest for themselves,” she said. “We encourage civil discourse — emphasis on CIVIL.”