Social Innovator and Founder of Girls on the Run and Running Mates USA
Molly Barker is the founder of Girls on the Run International, the program that uses running to empower girls. A four-time Hawaii Ironman triathlete, Molly used her background in social work, counseling and teaching to develop the program. Since Barker founded it in 1996, it has served a million girls and earned her numerous accolades, including the Daily Point of Light Award, given by President Obama and Former President Bush in a ceremony at the White House.
After retiring from the organization in 2013, she was asked to join the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform, a Washington group seeking ways to bridge the political divide in Congress. By the time its 29 members of the commission made recommendations, however, Barker had decided the real problem was bigger than Congress. It was all of us.
That was when she began formulating an idea for The Red Boot Coalition, a new organization whose name was inspired by the gift of a pair of red boots from her daughter Helen.
In August 2014, Molly put those conversation-starting red boots to task and set out to get to the root of what was causing these polarizing conversations. From Charlotte to Las Vegas she listened to hundreds share their fears, concerns and hopes.
“Ultimately, leadership comes down to one very simple question,” she wrote in the telling of her cross-country journey. “Am I willing to make the effort to see, to listen, to look for the humanness that rests within each person I encounter?”
Molly is the mother to two children: James, a fashion designer in New York and Helen, a bass player in Charlotte. When asked recently what her mom does for a living, Helen responded, “My mom listens and loves people for her living.”