Having three daughters between fifth and ninth grades, Christine Scanlan wasted no time getting down to the basics of an eighth-grade girl's life.
Scanlan told the group of more than 100 eighth-grade girls -- some wearing pink boas and all carrying pink folders -- that the advice from her daughters about her Tuesday speech was to not be boring.
Then she imparted some advice of her own: Don't be afraid to speak up, make quick decisions and be a good leader through communication.
"You don't have to worry about doors being opened. They are opened. You just have to worry about how to go through them," Scanlan said.
Scanlan, the senior vice president and chief operating officer for the Keystone Center, was the keynote speaker for Tuesday's career conference for eighth-grade girls. Girls came from Steamboat Springs, Soroco, Hayden and North Park middle schools, as well as Whiteman Primary School and the Christian Heritage School.
The all-day conference allowed the girls to attend sessions covering various career options, relationship advice, eating disorders, self-defense and massage therapy.
During lunch, the girls got a taste of reality as they worked out budgets comparing the salaries of their chosen careers with how much money they planned to spend.
Tuesday was the seventh year of the Girls to Women/Women to Girls conference, which is sponsored by the Woman's Foundation of Colorado. The program has reached more than 1,000 girls and involved more than 1,000 volunteers.
Scanlan said that, from her daughters, she knows middle school girls worry a lot about what other people think.
"I think middle school is when you first come to the realization that what other people think about you can be important. But it shouldn't be the most important thing," Scanlan said.
She told the girls to not be afraid to speak out and to not go back and analyze what they said 25 times.
"What happens is, you end up not talking," she said. "If you wait for the perfect opportunity and for everyone else to say something, it is going to pass you by."
Scanlan related a story about her daughter, who was told she was shy even though she never stopped talking at home.
"It is really hard to express your opinion. All of that is holding you back from being the person you want to be," she said. "You have to find a way to get past that."
The media has much to do with sending confusing messages to girls, she said.
"You are being told by the media you are capable of doing anything. You can do anything, you can hold leadership positions like no other," Scanlan said "At the same time, you are being told to wear your thong above your pants. Do you think you are being taken seriously with your thong above your pants? Men don't wear thongs above their pants."