Girl Scouts sticks to mission as Boy Scouts, now "Scouts BSA," adds girls

In 1912, Juliette Gordon Low created Girl Scouts to provide girls with opportunities to develop into strong, independent, successful women. Today, we continue to offer research-based programs for girls with their learning styles and development in mind.

For the past century we’ve been acutely focused on dispelling gender stereotypes and creating a space exclusively for girls to learn and grow. We are determined as ever to stay on this path so that more girls, through Girl Scouting, gain confidence, seek challenges and become active decision-makers and proficient problem-solvers to the greatest degree possible — and, frankly, so they are better equipped to navigate a world that is still, regrettably, filled with gender bias.

Last week, the Boy Scouts of America unveiled its new name, Scouts BSA, to reflect its decision to now accept girls in its program. What we haven’t seen is any strategy or details about the programming they will be offering to effectively serve a co-ed group of children. Girl Scouts, however, has remained true to its mission and developed a national, strategic initiative to expand the depth of its programs to meet the needs of girls today and in the future, offering new opportunities for girls to explore the outdoors, build technology skills and encourage entrepreneurship.

To create more female leaders, we start young and make sure today’s girls are acquiring the courage, confidence, character and skills they need to take the reins of leadership in the 21st century. Girl Scouts develops programs that address a girl’s physical, emotional and mental development — focusing on the total girl — highlighting those areas that help girls to grow and become successful business owners, scientists, engineers, doctors, civic leaders and environmental stewards.

Our programmatic focus on girls creates an environment where they will be called upon, where they will have an opportunity to try their hand at a variety of activities and where they are always expected to succeed. Most importantly we have created a girl-led environment where girls get to make the decisions; in Girl Scouts, there is no prescribed layout for what a girl must do. This girl-led process helps girls to find their voice, learning at an early age to speak up and speak out, creating a better future for their entire community and culminating with the opportunity in high school to earn the coveted Gold Award, earning them college scholarships and higher rank in the military.

Girl Scouts has been a key driver of workforce development for women for over a century. In the United States, 80 percent of female tech leaders, 73 percent of current female senators, 90 percent of female astronauts who have traveled in space, and 50 percent of female business owners are Girl Scout alumna.

Girl Scouts has worked closely with girls, volunteers, and staff to ensure its programs are what girls want and need. For example, if girls want to be able to protect themselves online, we have cyber security badges for that; if they want to be an engineer, we have badges for that; and if they want to experience adventure-filled outdoor activities, we have badges for that too.

National partnerships with Toyota Financial Services and Motorola along with local supporters such as BGE, Carefirst, Inovalon, Lion Brothers, Northrop Grumman, T Rowe Price and WR Grace allows us to provide innovative programming to more than 20,000 girls throughout central Maryland including more than 4,000 through in-school, after-school and summer programs for girls in underserved communities.

Girl Scouts are not merging (and have no plans to merge) with the Boy Scouts, despite the Boy Scouts name change. To prepare girls today to be the world’s leaders of tomorrow, Girl Scouts will provide them with an unparalleled leadership experience when they are young — an experience that can only come from the best leadership organization for girls in the world. Girl Scouts brings a wealth of knowledge that provides girls cornerstone experiences with benefits to last a lifetime.

Violet M. Apple is CEO of Girl Scouts of Central Maryland, and Lynne M. Durbin is GSCM’s board chair. They can be reached at vapple@gscm.org.

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