Girl Scouts USA Declares 2012 the “Year of the Girl”

I’m excited to see that as part of the Girl Scouts centennial this year, the Girl Scouts have declared this the “Year of the Girl.”  It is a celebration of girls, a recognition of their leadership potential, and a commitment to creating a coalition of like-minded organizations and individuals in support of balanced leadership in the workplace and in communities across the country.  The Girl Scouts aim to create a sense of urgency around girls’ issue, by breaking down societal barriers that hinder girls from leading and achieving success in everything from technology and science to business and industry.

I’m part of the proud tradition of Girl Scouting, having been a Junior Girl Scout back in the early 70’s. I loved the experience, and reveled in the camaraderie, and the sense of accomplishment I had in working on merit badges with my fellow scouts.  Here’s a picture of Troop 450 receiving a flag from our Congressman William Bray, R-Ind.,  after we completed a service project to clean up an overgrown, abandoned cemetery with pre-Civil War era tombstones.

Troop 450 with Rep. Bray in May 1972 (I'm the tall one, fourth from R; my mom, a troop leader, is third from R in the back)

It’s no surprise to me that Girl Scouts has determined a link between membership and later career achievement:  a 2004 study demonstrated that 80 percent of female executives and business owners and two-thirds of women serving in Congress were former Girl Scouts. There is a huge leadership gap between men and women in positions of authority across most industries and sectors.  For example, only 3% of CEOs are women, and only 17% of Congress are women. While women have made tremendous progress since my days of earning merit badges, there’s a long way to go, and the facts about girls today are sobering: only one in five girls believes she has what it takes to lead.  Fifty-nine percent of girls say the fashion industry makes them feel fat. Eighty-five percent of middle-school students say they’ve been cyberbullied at least once.  Although more than 90 percent of girls in fourth grade want to continue studying math, by twelfth grade that number drops to 50 percent.  And even today, women receive only 18 percent of the bachelor’s degrees awarded in engineering in the United States, which places us a measly 26th out of 31 countries.

I’m pleased to see the Girl Scouts start their “To Get Her There”  initiative to help girls reach their full potential.  Negative influences surround girls’ lives, including peer pressure to not stand out, a lack of role models and mentors, unhealthy images in the media about beauty, and even bullying from their peers.  We all can and must help change that, as we can’t afford to have millions of girls not reach their full potential as leaders in our society.  Here’s to the Year of the Girl!

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