By Sylvia Acevedo, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA
Girl Scouts is the premier girl leadership organization in the world, and I am proud to serve as its 20th chief executive officer. Every day we work to carry out the vision of our founder, Juliette Gordon Low, who believed in the power of every girl to make a positive impact on the world.
We are disappointed that Boy Scouts of America has chosen to open its program to girls in contravention of its charter, rather than focusing on the 90% of American boys not being served by Boy Scouts. We believe strongly in the importance of the safe, all-girl, girl-led and girl-friendly environment that Girl Scouts provides.
At Girl Scouts, girls aren’t the ancillary tag-along or supporting player — they are the central character. For more than a century, Girl Scouts has delivered unparalleled experiences that allow girls to discover their passions, develop leadership and people skills, explore their worlds, and embark on new adventures. Adult mentors and strong female role models show them they can be anything they want to be.
Through earning badges, including the science badge, for which I built an Estes model rocket and launched it into the sky, I learned to persevere — to create a plan, to regroup when things did not go as planned, to learn from failures, and to try again. My pursuit of engineering and rocket science, at a time when girls like me were not encouraged to do so, is a direct result of my experience as a Girl Scout. It taught me to identify opportunities and to seize them.
The culmination of the Girl Scout experience is the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest achievement in Girl Scouting — and the most difficult to earn. The Gold Award recognizes girls who demonstrate extraordinary leadership through remarkable “take action” projects that have sustainable impact in their communities and beyond. Gold Award Girl Scouts earn college scholarships, enter the armed forces one rank higher than other recruits, and demonstrate higher educational and career outcomes than their peers.
Girl Scouts works, and we have the research to prove it. A Girl Scout Research Institute study last summer found that Girl Scouts shine above their non-Girl Scout peers in leadership, academics, career aspirations and hope for the future. One particularly significant finding was that Girl Scouts can buffer girls against negative outcomes during one of the most crucial times in their lives: the middle-school years. Unlike their non-Girl Scout peers, middle-school Girl Scouts exhibit a lift in their sense of self rather than a decline. Their desire to solve problems in their communities actually increases during middle school, compared with a dramatic drop in interest and involvement among others.
I can’t overstate how important this finding is. It points to the positive impact Girl Scouts has on girls’ lives, confidence and self-possession, and underscores our ability to help girls empower themselves and build a pathway to success.
Girl Scouts has been filling the leadership and entrepreneurial pipeline since our very beginnings. It’s no coincidence that in America, the majority of female astronauts and female tech leaders, 76% of current senators, 52% of women in business, and all female secretaries of State are Girl Scout alumnae. So are the more than half of the 89 women in the House of Representatives and four of the six women serving as governors.
From its inception, even before women had the right to vote, Girl Scouts encouraged and taught girls how to lead change through civic action.
At Girl Scouts we are creating a pathway of girls who can lead in science, technology, engineering and math — in medicine, robotics, design and the arts; as entrepreneurs, makers, inventors and designers. The STEM pipeline matters. There will soon be more than 2 million jobs in cyber security in the U.S. that can’t be filled. The basics of American banking and personal technology systems are at risk. At Girl Scouts, we see it as our patriotic duty to build strong leaders in the STEM space, for the security of our country. It’s good for girls — and it’s great for America.
At Girl Scouts, we are in our second century of preparing girls for a lifetime of leadership. We are proud of our role in our country’s history and are embracing and amplifying our role in its future. We are the organization building the G.I.R.L.s — the go-getters, innovators, risk-takers and leaders — of tomorrow.
This is what we’re offering America — tapping this great untapped resource of girls who take action to make the world a better place.
No organization does this better than we do.
Sylvia Acevedo, a rocket scientist, entrepreneur, executive and lifelong Girl Scout, is CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA.