Aug13

Written by:Colleen Walker
8/13/2012 3:38 PM 

Today's girls are destined to lead tomorrow's boardrooms and courthouses and run our hospitals and technology start-ups. But a cycle of discouragement is stopping girls from moving forward. They're backing down from their aspirations. They're opting out from activities they once loved. They're even shying away from raising their hands in class.

Studies also reveal that girls idealize leadership qualities and skills, like being talented, caring, honest, hard-working, confident, good listeners, and team players. But only 21% of girls believe they have the qualities required to be a good leader. In other words, she knows what it takes to lead, but she lacks the confidence to do so.

So what is happening? What is so discouraging for girls today?

She is lacking role models and mentors, especially in high-paying science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers. She is confronted by unhealthy images about female beauty. And the bullying mentality of peers holds her back. An unsupportive environment gives her discouraging messages starting in grade school, and continuing beyond. If this situation goes unchecked, millions of girls will never realize their full leadership potential. They'll opt out of pursuing their ambitions and never dare to reach her full potential.

Thus, ToGetHerThere was launched by GSUSA and is our call to action. The goal is as clear as it is ambitions: to bring about gender balanced leadership across all sectors in a single generation by supporting girls and their leadership development. This initiative is powered by Girl Scouts; but, as it develops and takes root in the culture, it must be informed, enhanced and empowered by other organizations and individuals.

ToGetHerThere is a call to action simply because we can’t ignore the situation any longer. As Connie Lindsay, our National Board Chair, has said, “We have admired the problem long enough!” We can’t as a nation ignore the fact that we have a leadership landscape that results in only 1 in 5 girls believing they have the key qualities to be a good leader.

Consider these statistics:

  • Fewer than 20% of bachelor’s degrees in engineering, computer science and physics are held by women.
  • In the top 15 media companies, there is not a single woman among the CEOs and board chairs.
  • Only 17% of the U.S. senators, representatives and governors are female, even though women are consistently rated higher than men on character traits highly valued in political leaders. In the past 30 years, we’ve only increased representation in Congress by 1%.
  • Among Fortune 500 CEOs, only 3% are women; only 15% of their corporate boards contain women. Yet, stocks of companies with more female senior executives consistently outperform industry peers.
  • Women make up only 6.5% of the science advisory board members at U.S. high-tech firms. Yet, 74% of teen girls say they’re interested in STEM subjects and fields.

 

ToGetHerThere posits that investing in girls and their development is good for the nation. But, a girl who doesn’t believe she has what it takes to be a leader isn’t likely to run for mayor one day. A girl who is laughed at by peers for being outspoken in the classroom isn’t dreaming of sitting at the head of the table, running a board meeting. And a girl who hides her abilities in science and math won’t find the cure to illnesses that affect us all.

The nation can’t afford for even one girl to opt out.ToGetHerThere is as much a hard-headed business investment as a moral imperative. The world has gotten much more competitive and girls have it within themselves to innovate, create and execute. Just go ask the Girl Scout Troop called the Flying Monkeys Robotics Team from Ames, Iowa, or our own two Gold Awardees who provided children in the Kashmir region with solar-powered flashlights so they could study after dark.

So today, we begin the process of mapping the future of ToGetHerThere, of connecting the work of 112 councils nationwide with GSUSA. We already know that through our mission of building girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place, we have helped produce some of the most accomplished and distinguished women in this country. But, how do we get everyone to rally around our cause and do so with a sense of urgency – with an understanding that girls are a great untapped resource and to unleash their full potential is a win for all of us?

This is the task before us. And, it begins with awareness. You can’t get behind a cause if you don’t know about it and the issues that animate it. Awareness then leads to action. Awareness and action are the twin pillars of this movement. It is up to each one of us to spread the word and begin to take action that includes: awareness, focused action, coalition-building, corporate involvement and engagement, and cultivating and activating a natural base of support.

Learn about the issues affecting today’s girls. Help us spread the word about the Girl Scout Leadership Experience and the difference it can make in the lives of girls. Become a mentor and share your knowledge, your passions, your expertise with our young women. Invest in girls – if we, as mothers, sisters, aunts, teachers, community leaders and corporate leaders don’t take the first step to support today’s girls, who will? An investment in today’s girls is an investment in the future of our society.

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