How this big idea got started

Mar 29, 2014 | 2 comments

By Karen Clark Cole ::
Me and my 5yr old inspiration, Nicola.

Me and my super big love – 5yr old inspiration, Nicola.

Like many things that go big, it started small. It was going to be a one time event for 200 women and girls at my office for our speaker series, and then it got out of hand…


For many years now, I have been looking for news and information that focuses on the many great things women around us are doing every day, and not finding it. Instead, even women keynote speakers love to talk about the imbalance of men and women in business, sports, life, focusing on what women are not doing.

The main problem with this approach is that it does not create a positive picture for girls and women move towards. It’s really that particular person’s view of the data or the world, but we are so influenced by what others say, that another person’s view can quickly become our own, without any questioning, especially when it comes from “an authority” like the news. Once we believe this information or “truth”, cognitive psychology says we start to act like it. Then our mind goes to work looking for evidence to support and validate our beliefs, whether they are good for us or not. It’s amazing really.

The good news is that this can happen just as easily for creating a positive message and image of the truth. We can start looking to and becoming like the thousands and thousands of amazing women doing extraordinary things right in our own backyards everyday. This is the mission of Girls Can Do: To inspire a POSSIBILITY THINKER generation. To encourage young women to have big dreams and pursue them. After all, what you want to do in life is always your best option, and anything is possible if you expect it!


I first started talking to Ingrid Backstrom (who frequents her home ski hill, Crystal Mountain) about how, unlike the magazines like to say, she does not let the off-balance ratio of men to women in ski movies slow her down. Instead, Ingrid likes to talk about all the great women who are in ski movies and how they work together. In fact one of her close friends, Elyse Saugstad, just finished making her own movie! Talk about getting it done…

As a natural mentor and advocate for kids on the hill, Ingrid said she would be happy to come and speak about her experiences and talk about her approach for moving forward and celebrating what women are doing, rather than what’s not done yet or equal. I started to realize that Ingrid alone would blow the standing room capacity at my office, so I better start thinking about where else I could host such an event.

I was looking for a place to hold 300-400 until my husband suggested Payne Hall at UW, which holds up to 800 people. Within days, even that was too small. My imagination had already run wild and I had begun visualizing something even bigger. I had a quick “am I nuts?” check with my friend and mentor, Cat Crosslin. Knowing me well, she said, “Of course you can pull it off, and here are a few more women to think about…”

My goal became to find other women who were seeing and living the same way Ingrid approached life: Focusing on what women can and are doing. Being fortunate to have a successful consulting company, I know people in a lot of cool companies. NASA came to mind first. I reached out to my Cryosphere Scientist client and friend, Thomas Wagner to see if he had any NASA scientists for me. Did he ever! Enter Christy Hansen. She trains astronauts how to walk in space, she flies over the Earth’s Polar Regions gathering geophysical data, and many, many other cool things. I asked her if she’d come (to my barely formed) event and she said within an hour. “Yes, I would love to participate. Girls rule.”  Just like that? Really? I suddenly needed a bigger venue.

After a few weeks of searching, the beautiful Benaroya Hall became my dream venue. Home to the Seattle Symphony, the entire place is a work of art, the perfect stage to inspire and light a fire for girls around the city to never slow down, have big dreams, and make them a reality. Matt Laughlin, the Facility Sales Manager was wonderful in helping me figure out all the details and making it affordable for our event. The main hall has a flexible space which can hold up to 3000 attendees…now we’re talking!

This small project idea has now become a great reality, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you and 100 of your friends. Please spread the word to all our future POSSIBILITY THINKERS and meet me on May 17th at the Girls Can Do event!


You can reach Karen Clark Cole @karenclarkcole

  1. the event sounds very interesting to me. all of the women speaking sound very inspiring. it sounds cool, maybe i’ll go!

    zara, age 10 🙂

  2. Thanks Zara! We hope you come and bring 10 friends with you! Who is your favorite musician right now? We are thinking about some music in the first hour…

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