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To celebrate International Women’s Day back on March 8th, the Chesapeake Public Library embarked on their first annual Work Like a Girl Chesapeake program. Work Like a Girl Chesapeake provides an opportunity for young patrons across the City to celebrate women in industries that are traditionally considered male-dominated fields. The program received promotional assistance through the Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast as well as the Chesapeake Public Schools. The American Library Association’s American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grants for Libraries made this event possible by providing $10,000 in funding for books, marketing materials, and keynote speaker, Maia Chaka, the first Black woman to officiate the sport of professional football.

Upon arrival, participants received booklets and worksheets to use as a jumping-off point for asking the professional women questions about their fields of study. They also received Work Like a Girl pencils and pink footballs. Each participant was able to choose a brand new book on famous females to take home. Titles included: A is for AWESOME!, Rad American Women A to Z, Nevertheless She Persisted, and Teen Trailblazers.

Participants roamed around the Central Library, meeting women doing all sorts of amazing work. From geologists to surgeons, US Coast Guard to Virginia Department of Forestry, public works to police, CEOs to commercial realtors, there was something to spark everyone’s passion. These professional women volunteered their time to share what they studied in school, what led them to choose their field, and the struggles they had to overcome when sometimes being the only woman at the table.

After the career fair, participants were invited to attend the keynote presentation. Maia Chaka is the second female and the first Black female to join the on-field officiating staff of the National Football League. Chaka was born in New York but moved to the Hampton Roads area to go to school and study physical education at Norfolk State University. She started her career in Virginia Beach Public Schools and began officiating football at the high-school level soon after a mentor pushed her to switch from the idea of officiating basketball to making history in football.

Chaka shared her journey through the ranks with the participants and told them success takes authenticity and being yourself, even if the masses say you don’t fit in, and bravery to tackle the challenges in your way. After the program, Chaka stayed to sign autographs, take photos, and share words of encouragement with the participants.

Overall, the program was a huge success. More than 200 people participated, and many of them shared stories about how much the program inspired them, and how much they needed a night of encouragement and empowerment. The Chesapeake Public Library is already thinking about how to make the program even more successful next year!

Amanda Jackson, Director, Chesapeake Public Library

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