The decision to admit girls into Boy Scout programs drew support and criticism. One Girl Scout leader explains why she thinks Girl Scouts is an invaluable experience for girls.
By Caroline Davenport
Nov. 20, 2017
Mary Alexander was shocked when she learned of the Boy Scouts’ decision to admit girls into their iconic Scout and Cub programs.
Girl Scouts gives girls a voice, especially those who may not speak up in school, said Alexander, a former Girl Scout leader in Lexington, South Carolina.
“It allows the girls to speak up, take the lead, and to realize they have something really important to contribute,” she said.
Shortly after the Boys Scouts organization made its decision public in October, the Girl Scouts responded with a tweet linked to a blog post highlighting the organization’s strengths and achievements.
“Girl Scouts is the best leadership organization in the world,” the post said. “We believe strongly in the importance of the all-girl, girl-led, and girl-friendly environment that Girl Scouts provides.”
The Boy Scouts of America says the decision to welcome girls into the Cub Scouts program is a way to meet character development needs of all children as well as accommodate the diversity of families today.
Alexander’s perspective echoed the Girl Scouts’ statement in many ways. She said one of the main pillars of Girl Scouts – building future leaders – is needed in our public and private spheres today.
“Through the organization, we learn to build each other up and that it’s up to us to make everyone successful… when one succeeds, everyone succeeds. This is desperately needed in our society,” she said.
Families will be allowed to enroll both boys and girls into Cub Scouts in the 2018 program year. In a statement on Oct. 11, the non-profit organization said existing packs may choose to establish a new girl pack, establish a pack that consists of girl dens and boy dens or remain an all-boy pack. Cub Scout dens will be single-gender — all boys or all girls.
Alexander said Girl Scouts provide activities that encourage leadership skills such as weekly meetings and visits to local and state government. The Girl Scouts also work in the State House each year to observe political processes and policy making decisions.
After becoming a mom, Alexander and a friend worked together to build a Girl Scout troop in Lexington which is still going strong with 45 girls at all levels. “I knew it was a way to give back to those leaders that taught me, and to mold future leaders of our nation,” Alexander said.
Some local Eagle Scouts have said that Girl Scouts are best known for selling cookies, but Alexander isn’t surprised that an Eagle Scout would say that.
“Throughout history, women and women’s activities have always been downgraded or made out to be ‘less than’ any male organization,” she said. “Unfortunately, some women buy into that belief and that’s exactly why Girl Scouts and organizations like them are so important to women as a whole.”
Selling Girl Scout cookies isn’t simply making money for the troop. Alexander said it teaches the girls marketing, selling, counting money, projections, work ethic and the real value of money when they begin considering how to use the proceeds. Her troop has helped out at Harvest Hope Food Bank and nursing homes, and taken part in community services like running marathons to raise money and building “Dang-It” dolls for those serving in the military.
Alexander thinks women who realize the importance and privilege of the organization should contribute to society by stepping up to lead the future leaders.
“If we instill the pillars of Girl Scouts in women while they are young, hopefully it’ll stick with them for the rest of their lives like it has in mine,” she said. “As Girl Scouts, we all unleash our inner G.I.R.L (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-Taker, Leader).
“Isn’t that what we should want for all girls and for our future generations?”
USC student Debbie Clark has been out of Girl Scouts for about five years now. She believes it’s time to change how Girl Scout leaders engage with girls.
“I think it has something to do with they’re not finding what they’re looking for in Girl Scouts,” Clark said. “I do think the Girl Scouts want to develop leadership and female leaders, but I don’t know if they’re going about it in an engaging way that girls will respond to.”
She thinks there should be more of an initiative to retain the girls already in troops, especially the older girls. “I think they need to focus on keeping girls in it throughout high school,” Clark said.
“A lot of the girls don’t stay in Girl Scouts past Juniors. Middle school is when they start filtering out because ‘it’s not cool to be in Girl Scouts.'”