“I want people to be inspired, to believe that seemingly intractable problems are solvable. It takes tenacity and hard work, but we have to stay ambitious. You can’t think, ‘Ah, I can’t solve that stuff, so why get involved.’ We need to get involved.” ~ Maria Eitel, Chairman of Girl Effect and Co-Chair of the NIKE Foundation

Summary: Maria Eitel has been Chief Executive Officer and President of the Nike Foundation of Nike Inc. Eitel served as the Vice President and Senior Advisor for Corporate Responsibility at Nike Inc, as the European Corporate Affairs Group Manager for Microsoft Corporation in Paris; as a Director of Public Affairs for Microsoft Corp. for Public Broadcasting; and as a Senior Manager of Communications and Community Relations at MCI Communications Corp. From 1989 to 1992, she served in the White House as the Deputy Director of Media Relations and later as a Special Assistant to the President for Media Affairs and was an official spokesperson for the President. Eitel is a former Member of the National Academy of Sciences committee in monitoring international labor standards. She was also instrumental in forming and co-manages Nike’s Corporate Responsibility Committee of the Board of Directors and has also been responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of Nike’s environmental sustainability policy.

Nationality: American

Industry: Activism

Q: How did the Nike Foundation get involved with investing in adolescent girls in the developing world? on huffingtonpost.com

A: We started out seven years ago with a goal to end the most pervasive and disenfranchising issue of our time — intergenerational poverty. When we started out, girls were not the obvious answer.

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A lot of exploration went into that, but the short story is that we ultimately we came to see that women were disproportionately affected and that had a huge impact on their children as well and we realized that the most critical intersection in a poor woman’s trajectory was happening as she transitioned from girlhood to adulthood. Adolescent girls are the highest point of leverage, by investing in girls, you can stop poverty before it starts.

It’s important to say that this is a place we landed on with the help and advice of a lot of experts. We looked around and found out that other than some investments in girls’ education, people weren’t really focusing on adolescent girls specifically. They were typically included in women or youth and what that really meant is they weren’t included at all because there wasn’t much understanding about what was unique about girls’ experiences.

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