Dianna Flett: Projecting Girl Power

Dianna Flett, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, has taken on a new kind of service: teaching leadership and coping skills to 4th- and 5th-grade girls. Her Virginia company, Girl Smarts, offers workshops that help prepare about 800 girls a year for life challenges ahead.

By Christina Kelly

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Dianna Flett, Founder + CEO - Girl Smarts – Stafford, VA, USA

SOT You have gone through the whole process of developing a sense of being a confident, capable leader. How many of you want to be leaders? Okay. What do you think is more important, being liked or being a leader?

Dianna In my career as a female Army officer, there were definitely people that wanted to challenge me. And I had one non-commissioned officer, the first time I met him, told me that his goal while I was his supervisor was to make me cry. And every chance he had, he would push my buttons to see if he could break me. And so he actually made me stronger and never made me cry.

TEXT Dianna Flett – Founder + CEO - Girl Smarts Group – Stafford, Va.,

SOT On your marks, get set, go!

Dianna Girl Smarts is a series of workshops that works to empower fourth and fifth grade girls with strategies and skills so when they go into more stressful situations in middle schools, they have tools in their toolkit that they can reach into to navigate those challenges. Every time you give a girl skill to step outside of her comfort zone, you've increased her comfort zone.

TEXT Dianna was born and raised in New Jersey.

TEXT Her father worked for a trucking company and ran his own asphalting business.

Dianna My dad was pretty typical of the men of his time. He had served in World War II. He also didn’t go past sixth grade growing up as far as his education. Still one of the smartest men I've ever met though.

TEXT Dianna was the first in her family to go to college.

Dianna I knew we didn't have the money to actually put me through college so my parents weren't involved in that at all, it was really outside of their comfort zone.

TEXT Dianna applied for a scholarship from the Reserve Officer Training Corps.

TEXT She attended Rutgers University and majored in political science.

Dianna When I signed on an ROTC cadet, then I had a certain obligation that I had to repay the military in order to get the scholarship dollars. I was drawn toward military intelligence, especially with my political science background, that’s what I wanted to pursue.

TEXT Dianna graduated in 1981 as a second lieutenant.

TEXT The next year she began active duty in Europe.

Dianna In the 1980s women were coming into a lot of different roles that they hadn't experienced before. We were all pushing to stand up for ourselves. We were really the experimental group of women coming in to actively train side by side with the men and to pursue military roles from an equality perspective.

TEXT Dianna spent most of her career working in military intelligence in Europe, the Middle East and Afghanistan.

TEXT In 1988 she married another intelligence officer, Steve Flett.

Dianna In 2001 my husband was in the Pentagon, I was working in office in the Defense Intelligence Agency. It was obvious that once the towers came down and the Pentagon was hit that our world was going to change and that we were imminently going to be deployed. So I was pregnant with my fourth son at that time and we decided that I was going to leave active duty and retire and stay home and take care of the boys.

TEXT Dianna retired as a lieutenant colonel. But she found it hard not to work.

TEXT She soon accepted a job at the FBI doing leadership training.

Dianna When my boys were in middle school, my number two son, Sam, came home and he was really disturbed by the crash in confidence that he saw his female friends experiencing. That’s when he said to me flat out, “Mom, you need to do something.”

TEXT Dianna crafted a series of confidence-building workshops for 4th- and 5th-grade girls.

Dianna As I went through my research I found statistics that said that a girl’s self-confidence peaks when she’s nine years old. So I wanted to get into that decision cycle.

TEXT In 2009 she launched Girl Smarts Group.

SOT And how many of you have been to every single workshop over the last
two years? Good.

Dianna Fourth graders sign up for the five workshops throughout the year that support the building of skills, everything from how to do a proper handshake to how to make values based decisions.

SOT In your group I want you to identify the primary leader that’s going to come up and talk to me.

Dianna If the girls are in fifth grade, then they would learn how to set goals and how to achieve their goals, how to communicate effectively, how to negotiate conflict with friends.

TEXT More than 3,000 girls have completed the Girl Smarts program in 20 schools across Virginia.

TEXT Dianna has hired two facilitators to help run the courses.

TEXT The business is now tuition-based and self-sustaining.

TEXT PTA scholarships help girls who cannot afford to pay.

TEXT After salary and expenses, Girl Smarts clears about $5,000 a year.

Dianna Honestly, the business side of this is not the driver for me personally. I'm very thankful that I have a pension, my husband has a very good job. This is the kind of business that needs to be driven by your heart.

SOT Okay, keep that strong handshake when you go up to meet somebody.
Show them that you’re there and that you mean business.

Dianna When you can teach a girl how to say no and stand up against something that she doesn’t want to experience, then you really have given them an opportunity to take control of who they are and not just be a reflection of who someone else is.

SOT All right, good. Let’s go get ’em, girls...Bye, guys. Bye. I loved having you. Bye, ladies. Oh! You guys are making me so happy.

Posted: September 13, 2017

Christina KellyDianna Flett: Projecting Girl Power