On May 16, some of the most accomplished women leaders in the city will gather for an event that most of them have never experienced before—networking … with 14-year-olds.

The event is Girls Who Network—a workforce development program of Gwen’s Girls, an organization with a mission to empower girls and young women through education and experiences.

At Girls Who Network, 50 girls in grades 9-12 will have the opportunity to learn networking basics and tools, which may sound easy enough but is actually the skill that Harvard Business Review calls, “one of the most dreaded developmental challenges that aspiring leaders must address.”

The article defines networking as “creating a fabric of personal contacts that will provide support, feedback, insight, resources and information” and shows that while functional skills are important in performing at work, strategic growth involves “relational tasks.”

“The main issue we are addressing is the development of social capital—to show girls how connecting on a social and interpersonal level can advance their life goals,” says Jada Shirriel, Director of Development and Strategic Initiatives.

“There’s a lot of investment that goes into work-readiness programming,” Shirriel adds. “But what’s not taught are the social skills that enable girls to develop the relationships they need to be successful.”

Young girls participating in Girls Who Network will learn networking fundamentals from two accomplished women—Christy Uffelman, a leadership development consultant and Marita Garrett, Councilwoman for the Borough of Wilkinsburg. Participants will then demonstrate their networking skills in a room full of supportive women representing all sectors and disciplines of business and community life.

“We look forward to forming connections between the girls and the women—connections that we know will help the girls beyond the event,” says Shirriel.

Girls Who Network will be held on May 16 at the Pittsburgh Project on the North Side. Gwen’s Girls welcomes women who would like to participate at the event or provide mentoring to the young girls they serve. More information on volunteering at Girls Who Network and Gwen’s Girls can be found here.