Dr. Kimberly Clay Courtesy photo

By Alison Decker

Play Like a Girl, a local Nashville non-profit organization, has a simple philosophy: To bridge the gap in gender equality and help young women foster a relationship with technical and science-based learning interests, preparing them for a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics). 

Dr. Kimberly Clay, CEO and Founder developed the organization as part of her dissertation while obtaining her Ph.D. in Public Health from the University of Alabama. She has also worked for the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) as a public health analyst working on million-dollar projects focusing on race and health disparity and equal healthcare. 

She said, “When I was looking at an organization to develop, I wanted to do something that empowered young women. At a young age I was not encouraged to pursue a career in the science or technology field so that was important to me to give young women that voice.” 

She attributes her love of STEM to Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana, where she was introduced to the field and developed a positive relationship with it. She saw the gender gap in education and health firsthand while working in underserved communities across the South.

Play Like a Girl’s goal is to instill confidence in the young women within their programs. The organization currently does camps and clinics throughout the Nashville area. As of late January, they have launched an ambassador’s program with the NFL and a huge partnership with Bridgestone and the Titans. The New England Patriots’ Jonathan Jones is one of the NFL players to join the campaign ‘My Cause, My Cleats.’ 

In honor of International Women’s Day, the organization will host a hybrid conference experience inspired by their popular girls’ mentoring program, Meet + Mentor. The event will be a four-hour digital event before a live audience on Tuesday, March 8 starting at 1pm CT. The theme will be shining a light on women role models who are breaking barriers and inspiring the next generation. 

“Our work is focused on closing the gender gap. Girls of color bear much worse than their counterparts. We are working very closely companies within the DEI programs like Nike with conservative efforts around reaching opportunities and access within their companies as well. Just got a grant covered with the U.S. bank foundation for company to work on a special new project for girls on color.” Clay said. 

Also, a new leadership academy is in the works to help girls foster their leadership skills. Middle-school aged girls that come into the program previously have leadership skills through their sports training, but this workshop will offer leadership skills for girls that come in without a sports background. Over 5,000 volunteers are currently matched to a girl. The date will be announced later in the year. To keep up with the latest on Play Like a Girl visit https://iplaylikeagirl.org/. 

Spring cohort and registration is opening in the next few weeks for their annual school program for young women.