LiveGirl Marks 10 Years


LiveGirl Founder and CEO Sheri West, second from left, celebrates 10 years with four of the LiveGirls. Contributed

Maggie Murphy remembers thinking as a fifth-grader that Camp LiveGirl “was just going to be like every other summer camp.”

Camp LiveGirl. Contributed

A New Canaan High School senior set to graduate next week and attend the University of Michigan in the fall, Murphy recalled that she only knew that there would be sports and activities there.

“What I definitely did not expect was that she [LiveGirl founder and CEO Sheri West] would bring in so many powerful speakers, so we had exposure to so many different empowering women,” Murphy recalled.

“At the very end of every single day, everyone went around and told what their favorite part of the day was,” Murphy recalled. “In the beginning of the week, I was one of the younger kids at the camp and I was very shy. And I remember being very proud of myself that I eventually got up in front of the whole camp and said what my favorite part of the day was. I remember being surrounded by so many different people that I had never met. That very first year one of the main takeaways was: That was the first time I’d ever felt truly empowered by anything. It was a very cool feeling because even at such a young age, I hadn’t even really thought about—obviously I was in 5th grade, so I wasn’t thinking very complexly about gender issues—but it was the first time that I recognized that girls can be empowered this way, as well. And going into middle school, especially with that mindset, was extremely helpful for me because middle school is, I think, very tough for a lot of girls.”

Camp LiveGirl. Contributed

Her experience with LiveGirl would deepen and expand in the years to come, from camp to programs familiar to scores of New Canaan girls and families —Confidence Club and Leadership Summits while at Saxe Middle School, then Leadership Council and Social Justice Book Club while at NCHS.

Now, as the organization marks its 10th year in 2024 and the first wave of LiveGirls from one decade ago moves through college and into the working world, the nimble organization is expanding again with robust career readiness and paid professional internship programs.

LiveGirl is not a story of chance success, good timing or simple do-gooding. It’s a story of a smart, purpose-driven woman who grew up 750 miles from here and, reflecting on her own experience, analyzed a troubling landscape of limited opportunity and barriers to real success in the personal and professional lives of young women, including socio-economically disadvantaged women and women of color. And then focused her uniquely equipped mind on addressing the problem.

LiveGirl founder Sheri West

Conceived and shaped by West, a New Canaan resident with a deep educational and professional background in leadership development, LiveGirl—which on June 7 will hold a celebration marking its first decade (live auction here)—serves girls ages 10 to 24 free of charge. It has served nearly 20,000 girls since 2014, busing them here from Stamford, Norwalk and Bridgeport to attend camp alongside New Canaan girls. With a mission of creating confident and inclusive leaders across the board, the program starts by teaching self-esteem, social-emotional intelligence and empathy. As the girls transition to high school, they’re mentored through community impact initiatives that teach project management, public speaking and agency. And now, through its SHE WORKS program, LiveGirl is equipping its diverse young women with career readiness skills and internships at companies that demonstrate female leadership. 

‘On the Outside Looking In’

Sheri West grew up Sheri Fish, with her brother and parents on “a small farm on a dirt road” in Portland, Mich. (population 3,796, according to the 2020 Census).

L-R, standing: Sheri West (Founder & CEO LiveGirl), Caroline Taylor, Isabella Piazza, Stephanie Guza, Caroline Guza. L-R sitting: Alyson Gerber (Author “Brace”, “Focused”), Barbara Stevens (President Rand Insurance), Valerie Cooper (Founder Picture That Art LLC), and Juliana Fetherman (Founder Making Authentic Friendships LLC). 2019 photo. Contributed

“The best way to say it is I grew up on a dirt road,” West told “My mom was a teacher. My dad was an electrician without a lot of means. Yet I had everything I needed because my parents always said, ‘You can do anything.’ And on a farm there are no gender norms, because it’s all hands on deck.  So I always grew up thinking I could do anything.”

After high school, West attended Michigan State University (“go green,” she said), earning a bachelor’s degree in finance in 1992, then went to work for PepsiCo for one year before earning a master’s degree in leadership development from MSU in 1994.

From there she went to work for GE, where she joined a rotational career development program and eventually the audit staff, moving up within the company for 15 years while traveling to every continent (her three children were born in different states in 2000, 2003 and 2007) and getting “rapid fire” leadership training.

As part of that professional experience, West learned “that there are skills that breed confidence and enable you to lead,” she said.

LiveGirl founder Sheri West with a LiveGirl camper. Credit: Catherine Gorey.

“So ‘confidence,’ I think for a lot of people, it’s a nebulous word and it’s overused,” West continued. “We talk about building confident leaders. What does that mean? And it really means that you have a skill set—whether that be social-emotional intelligence, self-esteem, empathy, but also public speaking, project management, advocacy and agency. So these are all specific skills that you must develop in order to give you the confidence to lead. I understood that from my academic background. And then, I was thrust into this corporate environment where I worked for 18 years and enjoyed a very successful corporate career—constant promotions and moving up—but also very much experiencing unique obstacles that women face in the corporate sphere.”

Those experiences include “everything from sexual harassment to being the only woman in the room and having her voice constantly trampled on,” West recalled. 


One of the most important lessons Murphy said she took from her middle school experience of LiveGirl was “being exposed to people with different backgrounds.”

LiveGirls with Lena Pacheco, Connecticut’s Women’s Hall of Fame at MLK Day Summit on January 15th, 2018

“I realized that not everyone out there is like the people in my town,” Murphy said. “And from a very young age, I think that’s a good lesson to learn because you recognize what you’re lucky for. At the same time, I think it was extremely important for me because I learned a very human lesson, which is that every single person has a story. And you may not know that story. At LiveGirl, everyone has a story and LiveGirl really gives you an opportunity to share that story. And listening to the best friends that I’d made at camp—people from extremely different situations from mine— and still being able to form connections with people that were so different from me, taught me so much about people. I think it made me want to spend time with people not like myself, just to learn about them.”

In New Canaan, Murphy said, people often try “to act the same, and everyone wants to look the same.”

LiveGirl Founder Sheri West (left), Carver Center Director of Philanthropy Joe Gallagher, and Bankwell EVP Chris Chivily with girls enrolled in the LiveGirlTalk after-school mentoring program at the Carver Center, 2017.

“And I think with LiveGirl, you want to be different and you want to stand out, and it was very powerful for me to learn that as a middle schooler,” she said. “Because throughout middle school, instead of trying to fit in all the time, often it was the things that made me different and made me stand out that I loved the most about myself. And LiveGirl taught me to love those different aspects of myself because they cultivated this environment where you wanted to stand out and you wanted to bring different things to the table. The individuality of that all was very impactful.”


West has understood empathy her entire life.

Campers enjoy Camp LiveGirl

Coming from a small farm on a dirt road, “I think throughout my life, I’ve always felt on the outside looking in,” she said. “And I think when you’re that person, you always intuitively understand the importance of empathy.”

The organization she would found after leaving GE (and winning election to the New Canaan Board of Education) values empathy at its core.

“Realizing that you never know what someone else is going through and being curious instead of judgmental, that is empathy,” West said. “It’s a no-judgment organization with LiveGirl. We call it a ‘brave space’—it’s like a step further than a ‘safe space.’ A brave space is not only where you feel trust and where you feel safe, but where you are brave to speak up and share, you know your mind and share your voice with others.”


Though she was subjected to poor treatment at times, West said, “I do want to recognize that we have made progress.”

Campers at Camp LiveGirl

“Although some of this obviously still exists and we have so much more to go, it definitely shaped and informed me as a leader in my outlook of the world,” she said.

Asked how it shaped her outlook, West said, “That this is not right. That there are deep gender disparities in our world. And that it wasn’t true that just because I was smart and worked as hard that I would get to the same place. I could see that would not be true for me.”

Eventually she left GE.

“I increasingly found it difficult to balance—these are the things that they don’t tell women, right?—working at a company like GE, literally, I cannot think of one female role model I had,” West said. “In fact, women didn’t talk about their families. If they were married or had kids, they didn’t talk about it. And I cannot tell you that I knew one senior female role model who was successfully balancing her family and work. It was just so very difficult. And at the same time, I did have kind of an inner desire to lead a more purpose-driven life. So when I left, I made the decision to take a one year career pause. That was my decision.”


Murphy became a Camp LiveGirl counselor-in-training, or “CIT,” in the summer after her freshman year at NCHS, “and I’ve been a counselor ever since,” she said.

Camp LiveGirl campers with a mentor

She has served on the LiveGirl Leadership Council for all four years of high school, and in the last year became a leader in a new social justice book club—an outreach program that meets at New Canaan Library.

“It was super, super cool talking about different social issues with middle schoolers,” she said. “Obviously you’re extremely young and it’s so cool to see middle schoolers and even fifth- and sixth-graders start to think about really big social issues and hearing, what they think about it. It truly made me extremely optimistic for the future because if we have such young children feeling this way about really deep issues, I thought it showed a lot of maturity for all of them.”

Her favorite part of being a counselor, Murphy said, was watching the growth in a shy new group of girls at the beginning of the week.

Participants in Camp LiveGirl after playing with members of the Sacred Heart Girls’ Basketball Team, 2017.

“We do a lot of icebreakers and I really try to get every girl out of their comfort zone and try to crack the ice a little bit,” she said. “And just seeing everyone’s growth from the beginning of the week to the end of the week, everyone’s participation in all the activities increases and everyone wants to be more involved. And I think at the beginning, everyone’s there thinking like I did when I first joined LiveGirl, thinking, ‘It’s just a summer camp.’ You go to hang out with people and do fun activities and whatever. But I think by the end of the week, people are more committed to the LiveGirl motto that we’re there to empower you and we’re there to lift girls up.”

Even as middle-schoolers, participants in the program develop strong feelings for what Murphy called “the whole LiveGirl experience.”

“And as a counselor one of my favorite things to see is the girl at the beginning of the week who couldn’t speak two words has 10 new friends and now wants to stand up in front of the whole camp and share her poster about what she wants to be when she grows up and say it with such confidence,” she added. “In an environment where we are really trying to promote confidence and inclusivity and participation in the activities, I think seeing people’s willingness to do that increase throughout the week, even in just one week, it’s so empowering.”

Highlights from LiveGirl “Girls Can Lead” Leadership Summit (at Grace Farms, April 29, 2017, ). Middle school girls from across Fairfield County were inspired by CT Representative Caroline Simmons. She shared her amazing background experience, including time spent around the world (working for Obama and Homeland Security), which made her grateful for the opportunities we have as women. She encouraged the girls to stand up for their values, challenge ideas, and to make their voices count. She even inspired some girls to consider a future run for office! The girls also enjoyed exploring all that Grace Farms has to offer and a nature walk led by Two Coyotes Wilderness School. Girls described the day as “inspiring”, “adventurous”, “fulfilling” “fun” and “enlightening”!

And it’s not just a benefit to the campers. In fact, Murphy said, fellow counselors she’s spoken to through the years say “the impact that it’s had on them has been astounding.”

“Because a lot of girls who’ve been counselors didn’t see themselves as a leader and a role model in that way,” Murphy said. “We all think, ‘Oh, who would want to look up to me? Who would want to be like me?’ But I think in LiveGirl, you’re not only getting that from the people mentoring you, but you also get to mentor others. And I think it’s just as impactful mentoring others as it is getting mentored yourself.”

The Leadership Council has been equally meaningful, Murphy said.

In addition to mental health and practical goals that range from getting into college to creating a resume, helped by experts who lead talks and trainings for LiveGirl, “we had someone come on and talk about relationships and different stuff like that,” Murphy said.

“And how to handle different relationships in your life and how to get out of unhealthy relationships,” she continued. “We had a really famous actress who was on ‘Law & Order’ come in and talk about her experience in the acting community, which it was—even though I’m not personally interested in going to acting myself—I thought it was extremely interesting to hear someone from that perspective.”

The experiences that “real women” shared were wide-ranging, she said.

PHOTOS: LiveGirl Mother/Daughter workshop held at Saxe MS on Feb 1, 2017.
Parents are the ultimate role models for their children. Mothers and daughters had a powerful bonding experience at the LiveGirl workshop. We learned that we’ve all had hurt feelings, and in turn, we’ve probably hurt other people’s feelings. So, we learned how to better foster positive relationships and how to have the “hard conversations”. We also learned how social media is affecting our relationships. Remember, “a million likes will never be enough if you don’t like yourself!”

“We had someone come in and teach us about poetry, and I think the poetry meeting was probably the most impactful one for me because I am nowhere near a poet, but I think hearing a woman talk about her experience with poetry, it was very much what she loved to do, and she did it strictly for herself. She did it because she loved to do it, and I think it just role-models the behavior of finding something you’re extremely passionate about and trying to make a change that way. She wrote poetry about what she wanted to see in the world. And I think it taught all the girls similar things, just using what you’re passionate about to make a difference in the world. And we all wrote poetry that day. It was extremely out of my comfort zone, but I think LiveGirl is one of the main outlets for getting outside my comfort zone that I’ve had, because there’s truly no judgment.”


West recalled hearing a story from Camp LiveGirl in 2023 where A CIT “came into camp and she was sitting off to the side with her sunglasses on.”

“At first a couple of the campers were like, ‘Hey, why are you wearing glasses?’ And then one of the counselors walked up and said, ‘Hey, can you girls go back to your table?’ And then she took the CIT aside and said, ‘What’s going on?’ And it turned out that this girl had a trauma the night before. And the high school senior said, ‘Hey, you are so brave to be here.’ So empathy means you change the narrative. You’re not an outcast. You’re suddenly brave that you showed up. Other people recognize that and give you grace for that. It’s a powerful thing.”

A More Purpose-Driven Life’

One of the reasons that West decided to take a career pause “and really to be quiet for a year” (Board of Ed stint notwithstanding) was that “I needed some time to be quiet in my mind.”

2016 NCHS grad (and former SIP intern) Emilia Savini (L) at Camp LiveGirl in 2016. Contributed

“Because I do think that there’s a lot of people that continue on a path without questioning it, and you really almost have to step off that path to be able to question it and re-examine it and make sure it’s still aligned,” West said. 

She continued: “I think we all have an inner ‘why.’ But our ‘why’ changes over time and we need to always be checking back in with our ‘why’ and is what I’m doing with my life still aligned with my ‘why’? And I think for me, now I can look back and say, ‘OK, I was probably at GE for several years too long.’ ”

She remembered how when she had kids everyone wanted her daughter, Olivia, “to be pink and ballet, versus the boys to go out and play.”

“These things were not sitting right with me,” West said. “There are gender norms that I started to experience as a parent.”

Camp LiveGirl. Contributed

Around the same time, the West family began hosting a girl through the Fresh Air Fund.

The girl was the same age as Olivia and she “didn’t have any other positive adult experiences or role models in her life.”

“She was being raised by a single mom who was incarcerated at the time and her uncle, who was also a strong figure in her life, had recently died by suicide and she didn’t have any other positive adults in her life,” West said. “I think we as a family realized her coming to stay with us, just for a short two weeks, was transformative for her in terms of how she thought of herself and how she thought of her options. And I think the ‘Aha’ moment for me was re-examining my ‘why.’ It was the desire to live a more purpose-driven life and then really understanding the power of mentorship, where I brought all those together and thought, ‘I can do something about this. I have the skills and the talents with a business background and the leadership development to do something about this.’ ”

She has. 

‘LiveGirl’ is pronounced with a short ‘i’ in ‘Live,” like the verb, because West’s daughter Olivia is known in the family as ‘Liv.’ She herself had been a middle-schooler at Saxe when her mom founded an organization named after her.

Asked for her thoughts on the 10-year anniversary, Olivia West—a rising senior at the University of Pennsylvania—said it’s “heartening and encouraging to see how much LiveGirl has grown in the course of these 10 years.”

Sheri West (LiveGirl Founder & CEO), Krishna Patel (Grace Farms Foundation Justice Initiative Director), Lisa Lynne Kirkpatrick (Grace Farms Foundation Community Initiative Director) Dr. Vida Samuel (UConn Stamford Professor Women’s Studies & LiveGirl Board of Directors). 2019 photo. Contributed

“Because I remember when LiveGirl was just my mom and I and a couple of high schoolers just trying to wrangle up the camp together in order to really provide an experience to build bridges for middle-schoolers across a couple of towns, now grown across the state and virtually as well,” she said. “So it’s pretty incredible for me to watch it grow as I also have grown from middle school to high school, college and career readiness. I think that LiveGirl has provided me with such a unique and empowering community.”

Olivia West said she “wouldn’t be the same person without LiveGirl.”

“It taught me not only to have a voice but also to use it and use it to be an inclusive leader,” she said. “So I have so much to thank LiveGirl for providing me that space to grow and those long lasting relationships.”

Sheri West called her mom, Rose Fish, to help run the first trial Camp LiveGirl “because she was a former middle school teacher.”

Sheri and Olivia West in 2015. Contributed

“In the first many years, I was the one literally doing everything,” West recalled.

“It was like bootstraps to run these programs,” she said. 

Asked when she realized, during that first summer, there was magic in LiveGirl, West remembered watching the campers randomly start singing a song together as they walked down a set of stairs in NCHS.

“The girls were pouring down the stairs, singing a song,” West recalled. “And it was that moment, maybe the first time I vividly remember looking from the outside in, and really being able to appreciate the magic. It was a profound moment.”

West describes the kernel of the idea for LiveGirl as “mentorship and leadership for girls.”

“I started to tap my prior network,” she said. “And I started to talk to people from Pepsi, people from GE, and then I went to a couple of the community foundations and basically said, I have done some research and I’ve looked around and what I found was that there are a lot of great organizations that are serving girls and women—but like the Girl Scouts, for example, predominantly serves girls from K to five.”

Such worthy organizations also tend to lose girls as they age, according to the data, and serve girls of color in relatively low percentages, she said.

2015 photo of five participants in the first-ever Camp LiveGirl, from Wakeman Boys & Girls Club of Bridgeport. L-R: Ameera, Ariel, Shelby, Ariana, Tahlea. Contributed

“So I looked around and literally did use my GE business skill set and did a landscape analysis and I’m wondering, what’s out there that’s addressing this problem that I see,” West said. “And I define the problem. The problem is gender norms that emerge at a very young age. The problem is that girls’ confidence plummets during adolescence and never recovers. And the problem is that—in terms of under-representation of women in the workforce, both in positions of leadership and power—the problem is that 91% of college students get their internships through family and friend connections. It’s a problem of opportunity. Access and opportunity. There’s a system in place that breaks down girls and then doesn’t allow them to develop the skills or grant them access into positions of leadership. So it keeps them down and keeps them down.”

Asked what it was in her that compelled her to do something about the problem she identified, West said simply, “It’s the right thing to do.”

Though she didn’t know how big an organization like LiveGirl could get, West said she was committed to the concept of “atomic habits.”

LiveGirl Leadership Summit held at the New Canaan Nature Center on Nov. 3, 2015. Contributed

“I love that book,” she said. “It’s the idea that very small changes over time can lead to remarkable results. That’s the concept. And so I didn’t know how big this could get, but I was determined. And on that day, when I woke up and said, 

‘I’m going to found LiveGirl,’ I changed my habits. So every day, what you do in this hour is what you do in this day is what you do in this life. So I thought, I’m going to get up every day and I’m going to prioritize paying it forward. I’m going to prioritize putting some good out in the world. And I’ve just stayed committed to that day after day.”

‘Companies want to do a couple of things’ 

Data show that a large majority of internships and jobs are secured through people’s networks, families, university programs and similar connections, according to Olivia West.

“So that puts historically marginalized groups at an inherent disadvantage, and that is exactly what SHE WORKS is trying to disrupt,” she said. “I was involved in SHE WORKS for two years and so I went through the training programs twice, and it was equally rewarding each time. You are not taught how to network in class or anything like that, so learning these different skills was incredibly eye-opening. It has expanded since its origin and was able to place so many girls in so many opportunities in organizations. So it’s cool for me to be in that space with other women my age who are equally ambitious and motivated and want to learn how to enter the workforce and be successful.”

PHOTO: SHE WORKS 2023 interns pictured with Bankwell HR Director Gaudi Hernandez, HR Manager Amanda Nielsen, LiveGirl Founder & CEO Sheri West, and SHE WORKS Program Manager Hannah Jean-Pierre. Credit: Laney Lloyd

Support for LiveGirl is wide and powerful.

At some point, West realized that the organization was serving girls for a critical period in their lives—middle school through college—but was at risk of falling off as those LiveGirl alumnae entered the working world.

The SHE WORKS program, free and open to anyone, teaches career-readiness year-round.

“We’re teaching everything from how to write a resume, to how to prepare for an interview, to how to define your professional purpose,” West said. “And then also year-round we’re doing a lot of networking and career discovery events. We go to companies, we partner and we create opportunities for young women to meet with professionals from different industries and different fields so that they can really explore their interests.”

And each summer, SHE WORKS activates its internship component. This summer, LiveGirl will have 100 college-age women go through its training. 

“They’re then matched with paid internships through our employer network,” West said.

Those interns are matched with a professional mentor “who stays with them throughout their internship to make sure they’re set up for success,” she said.

L-R: Elizabeth Reed, LiveGirl intern, Sheri West, Founder & Chief at LiveGirl, Courtney Biernesser, SVP, Director of Human Resources at Bankwell and Lorrie Solonynka, LiveGirl intern. 2022 photo.

“Because a lot of these women—especially first-generation college students, maybe no one in their family has ever worked in corporate America before—they don’t know what to wear. They don’t know, when this happens, who do I talk to? So we pair them with a mentor to make sure that they’re set up for success.”

And for West, that is a key reason why LiveGirl has grown so much.

“The manifestation is taking a LiveGirl that started with us as a shy fifth grader in middle school, and launching her into the workforce,” West said. “That’s what’s happening now.”


For Murphy, LiveGirl’s biggest impact came when she was searching for the right college. 

“I definitely wanted to go to a very big school with a lot of different people and a lot of different programming,” she said. “And I think the University of Michigan is obviously a very large school. One of my favorite things that I saw when I visited was there’s so many different people and so many ways to get involved. And I think LiveGirl inspired me to get involved in things I normally wouldn’t have, and truly step outside of my comfort zone and put myself in situations where I might not be comfortable but I definitely will learn a lot. And when I leave New Canaan, I think the messages that I’ve taken from LiveGirl, everything I’ve been saying about being open to new experiences and following my passion, will all carry through with me.”

L to R: Sheri West, Founder & Chief at LiveGirl, Christine Chivily, EVP, Chief Risk & Credit Officer and Chelsea Starks, Marketing, Technology & Partnerships Director at LiveGirl. 2021 photo Contributed

Murphy said she has a special affection for the mentors she’s met as a LiveGirl.

“It’s really taught me to believe in myself and to find the people who are going to support me,” she said. 

Murphy continued: “Networking is an extremely big thing at LiveGirl because they bring in so many different people from so many different areas. And if I reached out to any of my mentors at LiveGirl, they would be more than happy to give me a letter of recommendation or a connection to a certain area of my interest. Sheri herself was even offering to help me get involved in things at Michigan with connections that she has. And so I think the main thing with LiveGirl that I’m going to take away is the importance of is fostering really important relationships, finding important mentors in my life and continuing to stand up for what I believe in, because even now, no matter what I do in my life, I think that finding something that I truly care about and I truly enjoy doing will be very important to me.”

Though LiveGirl is constrained by the number of employer partners it has and the number of internships it can offer (more info here), “there’s no limitation on the training,” West said.

LiveGirls (including New Canaanites Carolina Chimera and Olivia West) at Waveny, New Canaan, 2021. Photo by Laney Lloyd

“We could be training up to thousands of more girls per year,” she said.

The SHE WORKS/career-readiness piece of LiveGirl is relatively little-known within the wider scope of the program, West said.

Asked for one aspect of LiveGirl that has pleasantly surprised her, West said, “How we’ve been able to connect what we’re doing for the girls directly to our corporate partners.”

“I think that’s been really fun,” she said. “They’re so hungry for what we’re doing. And in the early years, I didn’t see that. Maybe it was because I just put my head down with ‘Let’s just build this thing and make sure we’ve got good programs and process.’ And then, in the last couple of years, picking my head up, these other companies around us are interested.”

They include MasterCard, whose Senior Vice President of People and Capability and People Business Partner, Nicole Lindsay, is a New Canaan resident serving on the LiveGirl Board.

In general, Lindsay said, “companies want to do a couple of things.”

“One, support and develop the next generation of talent that is coming into their organizations,” Lindsay said. “And I think most companies understand they have some responsibility to support the breadth of young people, recognizing that some of them will stay on the path and come to their organization. But if every company kind of chips into developing talent, we all benefit. So I think our future depends on talent being prepared to take on entry-level roles and grow beyond that. And frankly, the experiences they get in internships or through the mentorship and coaching that they receive really helps to accelerate their onboarding and potential to be successful and launch more quickly. So there’s that benefit. They’re helping us prepare the workforce.”

The second piece, Lindsay said—“and I think this is true across the generations in the workforce, but I think particularly for Gen Z’s that are, I think the oldest are in their late 20s”—is a higher commitment to social impact than prior generations.

“And so our earlier- to mid-career professionals, not only do they want to work for companies that want to do good in the world, they want to have the opportunity to do that, as well,” Lindsay said. “And so for our mentors, part of our employer value proposition and part of, frankly, retention of our existing employees is having opportunities for them to contribute in traditional ways in the workforce and non-traditional ways. The fact is that people who volunteer are happier employees. I think that’s also a really wonderful benefit of an organization like LiveGirl, which is not just a mentoring program. It is really supporting a diverse set of girls building their skill set, and also their confidence. And I know in talking with my colleagues, that’s what’s most resonated in helping young women their careers from a position of power.”

Similarly for AXA XL CEO Scott Gunter, also a New Canaan resident, LiveGirl “does a couple of things” for the company.

“We’ll always have a few interns that we bring in, and it does two things,” Gunter said. “We do other things as well, but the intern program I find very interesting because I’ve had lunches with them. I always meet with them once they’re here, just to talk to them about what they’re doing. What’s impressive is the professionalism. You can tell what Sheri is doing. She targets individuals and families who may not have been exposed to the business world, exposed to corporate, and you can tell that the learning that she provides when you meet these young ladies and they shake your hand and talk about what they’re doing and their ambitions—it’s very impressive. You don’t want to understate the challenges if you don’t come from a family that’s been involved in business, to actually try and understand how it works. And she gives these young ladies such confidence and you talk to them and it’s ‘Wow, you’re very impressive.’ And the ones we’ve had in as interns the last three or four years, because we got more involved in the program, have been very impressive.”

Gunter said AXA XL, which deals in insurance and reinsurance, keeps a line on its interns through college.

“Ideally, they find our business interesting enough to get involved in it, but I can tell you they’ll be targeted for recruiting by other companies,” he said. 

Gunter added, “And then what happens is you then attract other, for example, women, at that age group saying, ‘Wow, did you interview?’ and ‘That sounds like a good company’ or ‘I just did an internship there.’ So it’s not just them. It’s also the network. So for just pure business, it’s our ability to attract talent. You’re always looking for talent and these young ladies that she [West] works with are very impressive. We put them in all kinds of different areas of our organization. We’ve had them in communication, we’ve had them in actuarial and underwriting, all aspects of the business we bring them in, and every single time it’s just impressive people.”

Asked about the qualities that MasterCard has valued in its interns, including those from LiveGirl, Lindsay said, “At every stage of my professional career and in the work that I’ve done, whether in human resources or in nonprofit management or in finance, a common theme is around confidence for women in the workforce.”

She continued: “Something like ‘imposter syndrome’ comes up a lot and there are a number of different scenarios in which that comes up. But women are walking into different situations that challenge their confidence. And so having the skills, knowledge and the networks to navigate through those ups and downs that everyone goes through, I think with a lot of women, they’re very in tune with how they might be feeling—they are maybe ruminating on their lack of confidence a little bit more, or at least they may demonstrate it in different ways than men typically do. And so I think anything that we can do to help girls and young women build confidence, those tools will help them as they go have their ups and downs.”

Only a narcissist would never experience a lack of confidence at some point in their lives, Lindsay noted. 

“It’s really about helping to navigate through that so it doesn’t derail what their ambitions are,” she said. “And also, there are a few people in the world who are trailblazers, but most of us need to see someone who looks like us to get confidence that we can do it. And I think that is one of the most incredible parts of LiveGirl is that they see it every time that they are in a room, that there are people that have similar experiences that look like them, who care about them that are achieving in their careers. And then they walk away knowing that they can do it, as well.”

For Gunter, part of what LiveGirl does so well is instilling that sense of confidence. In the past, he said, someone who had no direct connection to the corporate world could easily write it off as something they simply don’t know or understand.

“Just expanding their minds about the possibility of giving them confidence that they can do this is such a game changer,” he said. “All companies are looking for people, looking for talent. We want to hire from 100% of the population. And she [West] is a strong contributor to helping us all hire from 100% of the population. And part of that hiring is the people, the population has to be interested in what you do. So it’s a bit of a two-way street there and she provides that. She gets these young ladies thinking, ‘You know what, you can do something different if you want. And I’ll help you get comfortable in that environment.’ ”

Lindsay said one word that comes to mind when she thinks of LiveGirl and its leadership is ‘authenticity.’ 

“There is no LiveGirl without Sheri,” Lindsay said. “She enters the room trusting the girls and they feel that, and she trusts her team and she trusts the volunteers. Now, of course she’s putting all of the structures and support in place to have the right controls. But it starts from ‘I believe in you’ and ‘I trust you’ and ‘There’s value that you can add and extract’ and it is palpable. I love going to LiveGirl events. I do our board meetings. Every meeting we hear from one of the girls or young women that are part of one of the programs. One of our board members is a current or former LiveGirl participant. And so you hear that. In the same way, there are all these dynamic people, largely women, who are on the board. And they are so dynamic and bring such incredible experiences and also commitment to this work. It is really an incredible community.”

For West herself, the strong corporate partnerships that LiveGirl has cultivated have been “the differentiator.”

“There are a lot of nonprofits out there with different funding streams, but the corporate partner comes in not only with funding, but the power to engage with us, to hire SHE WORKS interns, to tap into their women’s resource groups,” West said. “And suddenly we have a flood of 30 or 40 women in a shot who want to sign up to be mentors, who can host us for a company site visit or another experience. We’ve gone into companies like Stone Point Capital in Greenwich or Bankwell here in New Canaan. We’ve done resume days where we bring in 20 girls and they go down the line and review the girls resumes and give on-the-spot feedback and then they’ll do a women’s leadership roundtable where they bring in senior executives and talk about what their jobs are like and what their career advice is… We’ve got a hearty list of Fortune 500 companies that are supporting us now that have really allowed us the power and the fuel to expand our reach and impact.”

‘The Pay-It-Forward Model’

LiveGirl is now bigger than Sheri West, she concedes.

West herself, a natural networker and connector, is “constantly looking for who has that skill set or that connection that can help our mission,” she said. “And I’m always bringing them into the fold.”

The organization’s Board of Directors is engaged in regular meetings and driving strategy and governance. (Three Board members drove the LiveGirl 10-year anniversary celebration.) With feedback and steering from the Board, LiveGirl has developed its programs on-the-go, as needs are identified.

Asked about her long-term vision for LiveGirl, West said one of them is “10 years from now, having all of these accomplished women who are, in their own way, paying it back.”

“It doesn’t even have to be through LiveGirl,” West said. “That is the vision, is that we start to create this pay it forward model.”

The organization strives “to be responsive to what the girls really need.”

“But then when you get to a point of confidence in the program, then you start to scale,” West said. “It’s SHE WORKS. How can we scale up that training? Because there are so many more young women who need it. There is also a vision to do more around advocacy, because, I think the older I get the more I realize yes, we are changing the world one girl at a time, but until we also address some of those systemic barriers, we’re never going to make the progress that I want to see. So I feel like an organization like LiveGirl, with 10 years of credibility behind it, can now start to speak up louder and louder.”

And it’s already speaking up. 

For years the past three years, LiveGirls have testified in Hartford, helping to pass the CROWN Act, prohibiting discrimination based on ethnic hairstyles, the Menstrual Equity Bill and Ending Child Marriage Bill.

“It’s about getting louder and louder because I think, until we have policies and practices that open doors for women and girls, we’re never going to make the progress that we want to see,” West said.

That progress may be within reach, and the corporate partners that LiveGirl has found create a strong foundation for change. 

“There’s a lot more we want to do,” West said.


In the college essay that helped her get into Michigan, Murphy decided to write about LiveGirl. Part of what she wrote was: “I belong to many meaningful communities but the most impactful is the one that encompasses my passion: LiveGirl, a non-profit female leadership organization which I have been involved with since I was 11 years old. LiveGirl was founded ten years ago in my hometown with the mission of developing confidence and leadership skills in young women by creating diverse, inclusive, and equitable spaces. This program has grown into a sisterhood of impressive and thoughtful women committed to supporting each other, celebrating every background and taking advantage of every strength.”

11 thoughts on “LiveGirl Marks 10 Years

  1. Live Girl is impressive. It’s helping us all by making girls, companies, communities and America stronger and smarter.

  2. Dear Mike,
    Thank you for your thoughtful journalism and for interviewing so many girls, partners, and allies to write this comprehensive background of how LiveGirl was founded and grew its reach and impact. We are truly grateful to you- and the entire New Canaan community – for supporting LiveGirl over the years and helping us reach and serve girls who need us most.

  3. What a wonderful article. We are in awe of Sheri West. She has made an amazing impact in young girls. Thanks

  4. What an amazing story, Mike. In our Journalism class at NCHS, we try to emphasize how reporters have a responsibility to our subjects when we write their stories. The way you’ve written this piece – the interwoven personal narratives, the attention to historical context, the beautifully complete story development – is an object lesson we can use to teach students how to do right by the people who open up to them. Beautifully done!

    • Mike M, you are so right. I’ve long known that Mike Dinan is a rare gem of a journalist in how deeply he cares about getting his stories right. Appreciate your comments and all you are doing to train our next-gen journalists.

      • Thank you both so much.

        Mike, what you’re saying about people who open up is spot-on, in my opinion, and it’s great to hear that’s something taught to NHCS journalism students. It’s why each internship here starts with an interview where the intern is the subject, so they can feel how much trust a person is asked to put in the reporter.

  5. I don’t often read articles top to bottom. Just the highlights and move on so often. I read every word. What a great story.

      • Agree with you, Sheri.
        Mike D. is truly our news hound! As I commented before….I begin my day with a cup of coffee and New Canaanite. It is my last “go to read” before I sign off my laptop at night.

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