Girls Rule molding future leaders

By Daria Laycock
Outlook writer

Dianne Williams-Cox’s  reputation precedes her.

She ran for Florida House of Representatives. She was Region 1 Chair of the Democratic Women’s Club of Florida.

And, there is more besides politics.

Her neighbors call her an advocate for community accountability, voter participation and awareness on social issues. Especially on Tallahassee’s Southside.

Now it’s her organization, Girls Rule Inc., that is playing out as part of her legacy.

Through the nonprofit that she formed in 2012, Williams-Cox uses workshops and coaching techniques to train girls ages 6 to 18. Her goal is to build the next generation of leaders.

The impetus for her approach is the lack of women in leadership roles, Williams-Cox said.

“When I ran for office I realized there weren’t a lot of women running for office,” she said. “I (was)determined that it’s because women were not trained to run for office.”

Williams-Cox is taking her mentoring to another level. On Saturday, Girls Rule is staging its inaugural beauty pageant.

They will be doing so with a sense of purpose, too. The contestants will travel to Washington, D.C. to visit the Smithsonian Institute of African American History, using money raised from the event to fund the trip. Each participant will also receive a trophy and a cash prize.

“We wanted to make it a full educational experience,” Williams-Cox said. “If you’re going to be a leader you need to know how government works and that’s why we’re bringing them to D.C.”

Alexandria Washington, a former Girls Rule contestant, understands the purpose all too well.

“Girls Rule affords young girls and women the opportunity to learn that we have a seat at the table and our voice deserves to be heard,” Washington said, praising the efforts by Williams-Cox. “We are all born with the ability to lead, but society often pushes us to suppress that gift.

“I personally have become more engaged and have furthered my leadership skills with the aspiration to one day run for an elected position.”
On Saturday, the little girls will compete in two divisions (ages 6-7 and 8-9) during the event, which takes place at TCC’s Workforce Development Center.  Little Miss Girls Rule and Junior Miss Girls Rule titles will be at stake.

They will compete in three rounds. In the first they will dress and act like their favorite characters from television, books or film. Next they will demonstrate a talent, then they will conclude with a formal wear presentation while being escorted by their fathers.

The show is not about beauty but about confidence, Williams-Cox said.

“All of our girls are beautiful. We’re not competing to see who’s the prettiest,” said Williams-Cox. “It is my hope that everyone will walk away a winner.”

The event is open to the public. Tickets are $10. Proceeds from the pageant go towards building young leaders.