Powerful Girls in an Equitable Society

By Giving List Women   |   May 20, 2024
Girls enjoying a collaborative art project. (photo by Eric Foote)

Why is gender equity crucial to building the next generation of leaders in Santa Barbara County and beyond? Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara (GIGSB) is committed to addressing this question. With a mission to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold, the organization delivers evidence-based programs that are focused on equipping girls with the resources and support needed to thrive. 

“If I hadn’t come to Girls Inc., my life would be different. I wouldn’t be where I am now,” explains alumna Yesenia after reflecting on her path from Girls Inc. to UCLA for college. 

Removing Barriers to Access

Established in 1958, GIGSB is a catalyst for change in Santa Barbara, a county situated on the Central Coast of California with a population of nearly 444,000. The organization addresses the intersection of gender and economic inequities by empowering young girls, ages 5-18, through education, mentorship, and life-skill building programs. Through these initiatives, Girls Inc. is actively breaking down barriers and challenging the status quo – all with a vision of powerful girls in an equitable society.

“Here at Girls Inc., we believe that the greatest measure of success and progress in a community is the well-being of its people and the opportunities they are afforded to thrive,” says Cydney Justman, executive director at GIGSB. 

Embracing Diversity and Creating Opportunity

While Santa Barbara is often touted for its beautiful beaches, sunny weather, and other tourist attractions, the county is not exempt from the inequities that persist in the U.S. and beyond. According to the California Poverty Measure, a joint research effort between the Public Policy Institute of California and the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, Santa Barbara County has one of the highest child poverty rates in the state, with 19.5% of all children in the county living below the poverty line. Additionally, Santa Barbara Unified School District’s 2022-2023 enrollment data showed that 61% of students in the district are from low-income families.  

“Equity is embedded into everything we do at Girls Inc.,” Justman says. “We want to remove the structural barriers that often prevent girls from unlocking their full potential while providing fair access to everyone we serve – regardless of their ability to pay.” 

Girls Inc. is dedicated to making a measurable difference in the lives of girls across three key areas of focus:

Strong: Strong girls are in charge of their health and possess the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to develop and sustain healthy lifestyles.

Smart: Smart girls are academically engaged and connected to life experiences, opportunities, and careers through academic pursuits. 

Bold: Bold girls are socially and emotionally intelligent and display character and confidence in the life skills that enable independent, productive, and fulfilling lives. Bold girls are civically engaged and see themselves as advocates.

Measuring Impact

In 2023, over 6,300 girls ages 9 and up, across 75 affiliate organizations, participated in a Girls Inc. national survey. Selected results from Girls Inc. girls are below:

• 87% plan to graduate from college

•88% believe it is important to be an active and an informed citizen 

•89% report feeling like they have a great future ahead of them


Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara

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(805) 724-0264
Executive Director: Cydney Justman


The mission of Girls Inc. of Carpinteria is to inspire girls to be strong, smart, and bold. Our programs empower girls and women to achieve personal, social, political, and economic success. In partnership with schools in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties and at our Girls Inc. campus in Carpinteira, we focus on the development of the whole girl. Our comprehensive approach helps girls to value themselves, take risks, and discover and develop their inherent strengths.

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