You may be forgiven if you missed Miss America 2.0 on Sunday. The pageant, er, competition—it has been rebranded—is a vastly improved version of the classic beauty contest. Yet it still has a dated feel in the #MeToo world.
That said, it is worth noting that in a later-is-better-than-never nod to relevancy, the swimsuit segment, a staple since 1921, was swapped out for something far loftier: every contestant now has a social platform. Of interest here is that at least two contestants chose to speak about financial literacy. A handful of others championed a closely related cause: 21stcentury job skills.
We can’t talk about these issues enough, and even though viewership of Miss America has fallen steadily since 2013 (down 23% from last year), it nevertheless reached 4.3 million sets of eyeballs. That a group of young women on national TV would choose this social platform in the first place is testament to the public’s increasing awareness of the need for financial education.
“Financial literacy is a life skill I will teach not only to ensure our nation’s survival but to teach our people how to truly live,” said Miss North Carolina, Laura Matrazzo.
Okay, that’s not particularly eloquent or descriptive. But over the past two years Matrazzo raised $23,000 in support of financial education for disadvantaged students in middle school. Her program Money Talks: Student-Focused Principles of Financial Management reaches out through 15 nonprofit partners and three corporate sponsors. She won a Wells Fargo Community Impact Scholarship for excellence in community service.
Equally impressive is the effort from Miss South Dakota, Carrie Wintle. In 2016, she founded Money$heep, a nonprofit committed to youth financial literacy. With degrees in accounting and math, Wintle built a learning program centered on five foundations of financial literacy: budgets, saving, income, credit, and investing.
Her passion for financial literacy and entrepreneurship was fueled in her youth, when she raised and sold sheep and watched her savings grow. She donated 10,000 copies of her book Mr. Money Sheep to third graders in local schools.
Most other contestants’ social platforms lacked focus and centered on mega issues like human trafficking, sustainability, hunger and the arts. But Miss Connecticut Bridget Mary Oei and Miss District of Columbia Allison Kathleen Farris are targeting young women pursuing careers in STEM—science, technology, engineering and math.
These job skills will be in great demand in the decades ahead, and this social platform aligns with a new “She Can STEM” campaign from the Ad Council, featuring women in technology at such companies as Boeing, Microsoft, Google, IBM, and GE. The campaign incorporates a website shecanstem.com with information for teachers and parents.
Finally, Miss Wisconsin Tianna Vanderhei reminded us…
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…that not all 21stcentury job skills center on STEM. Her social platform, also an element of financial literacy, is promoting soft skills like communication, leadership, critical thinking, and adaptability. Many recruiters believe these skills have declined the last five years and most agree that colleges and parents need to do a better job teaching them.
This view aligns with research from PwC finding that many of the skills students will need in the future are uniquely human ones: problem solving, creativity, and innovation.
Miss America 2.0 may not be perfect. But organizers are on the right track rebranding it as “empowering young women everywhere to dream big.” Contestants championing financial literacy and other social issues look beautiful.