2012 was officially designated "The Year of the Girl" in honor of the 100th Anniversary of Girl Scouts – and what a year it was!
As I reflect on this remarkable year, I am filled with gratitude for so many outstanding volunteers who gave their time to make our Centennial Celebrations so successful. I can't help but think how proud our founder, Juliette Gordon Low, would be. As an unmarried woman in her early 50's, who had no children of her own, and was not lawfully able to own property or vote, she had a vision for the girls of Savannah – indeed, of the world – that would empower them physically, mentally and spiritually. A Movement that began in the drawing room in Savannah with 18 girls endured 100 years and has now become a worldwide Movement, with 3.2 million girl and adult members just in the United States.
For 100 years, women and men who learned of Juliette's vision came together to collaborate and focus on building girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place – keeping the vision of one woman in their hearts. With 59 million living Girl Scout alumnae in the U.S., it is clear that Girl Scouts has been at the forefront of empowering girls and women. America's most accomplished women in public service, business, science, education, the arts, and community life are Girl Scout alumnae.
- 80% of women business owners are Girl Scouts.
- 69% of female U.S. senators are Girl Scouts.
- 67% of female members of the House of Representatives are Girl Scouts.
- Nearly every female astronaut who has flown in space was a Girl Scout.
- The last three Secretaries of State were Girl Scouts: Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, and Hillary Clinton.
Through thoughtful leadership, Girl Scouts has changed to meet the needs of girls over the years. A cookie sale to earn additional money that began with a single troop in Oklahoma in 1917, went on to become a national fund-raising activity in 1922, and is now a $700 million program that helps to fund Girl Scout troops and councils. As the largest entrepreneurship program run by girls, the Cookie Program also incorporates 5 key skills that girls learn: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics.
An increasing number of girls are earning their Gold Award, the highest award a Girl Scout can earn. Last year, a record 235 girls in Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas earned their Gold Award, which meant communities and organizations throughout our jurisdiction benefited from their projects. Many of today's young women note that the community needs they were able to fulfill through their Gold Award projects led them to increase their community service as they became young adults, often with global impacts.
One of my favorite quotes from Juliette is, "The work of today is the history of tomorrow, and we are its makers." After having had our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to celebrate the countless memories and successes of the past 100 years, it is now up to us to set in motion the second century of Girl Scouting. As many of you are aware, this year Girl Scouts of the USA launched ToGetHerThere, a campaign aimed at creating gender-balanced leadership within a generation. Certainly an ambitious goal, but one that is critical to the wellbeing of our families, our communities, our nation, and our world.
What is female leadership and why is our national focus on the Girl Scout Leadership Experience? Through Girl Scout programs, girls learn how to make the right/healthy choices, to avoid drugs and substance abuse, to work together with respect, and to be accountable to oneself and to others. Research has shown that girls aspire to be leaders, but only 1 in 5 thinks she has the qualities to be a leader. Today's girls (and a majority of the boys we surveyed nationally) are not attracted to leading by the "command and control" method that signified 20th century leadership. Instead, they want to work collaboratively to succeed and make a difference. Girls do not look at personal gain as a motivator for their careers – instead, they want a career that benefits others. Today's girls want to do something that matters – that makes the world a better place.
A major way in which Girl Scouts is developing our future female leaders is through more active participation and awareness in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs. The need for skilled STEM professionals is ever-growing. Although research indicates a majority of today's girls have a clear interest in STEM, they don't prioritize STEM fields when thinking about their future careers. From our research, we know that too many girls still equate STEM careers with male-dominated industries, thinking they would "have to work harder than a man to be taken seriously".
This is where Girl Scouts comes in. Today's girls have more opportunities at a younger age than ever before; however, often girls don't know what they want to do when they get older. They have no lens and no life experiences. Girl Scouting gives them options, role models, mentors, and the skills they need to pursue their dreams. Once a mind is stretched, it never goes back to its original proportions. If girls have the opportunity to see and be mentored by women engineers, scientists, and others in STEM fields, they can more easily see themselves in similar careers. If girls complete hands-on badges through the new Journey programs, they are much more likely to be open to new career fields, as well as equate how these new fields can benefit others.
Today's girls want to do something to make a difference. Girl Scouts can help them gain the skills and offer them ways in which those skills can make a difference. When girls succeed, so does society. Juliette's vision for girls was bold and courageous – millions of girls and women are a testament to her Movement's success. It is now up to us to ensure that her vision remains bold and steadfast as WE work to create the female leaders of the 21st century.