People sometimes share the same last name though they are otherwise wildly different individuals. Take Mariah Carey and Drew Carey. Similar name? Yes. Similar job? Sort of. Are they the same, or even related? No.
Now consider the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. Similar name? Yes. Similar job? Sort of. Are they the same, or even related? No.
In the wake of the Boy Scouts’ recent foray into co-ed scouting, and as a Gold Award Girl Scout myself, I am here to tell you this: The Girl Scouts is here to stay. And that’s a good thing.
Start with the fact that one of the best things we can do to ensure the long-term strength of the United States is to invest in girls. Women bring an invaluable perspective to the courtroom, the classroom and the caucus room. Gender balance in the workplace and in the public sphere are vital to ensuring that every voice is heard and every outlook is considered. Corporate boards with more gender balance often outperform male-dominated boards.
At a time when our national dialogue is centered on the treatment of girls and women, it’s hard to imagine a more important moment for girls to have a place — a movement — that is uniquely their own. A place where their voices are championed, elevated, encouraged. Where their skills are cultivated, developed and refined. Where their leaders, role models and decision-makers are women.
A place where no one confuses Mariah and Drew Carey, because, while we all love “The Price Is Right,” we need a space that nurtures the Mariahs of the world to reach their potential and achieve whatever their visions and talents can combine to make of them.
And since we’re talking about names, let me mention three more: Condoleezza Rice, Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton. They’re not linked by their names. And one is from the heartland, one is an immigrant and one overcame racial segregation in the South. But what these women do share is a very important distinction: They were all Girl Scouts. Oh, and they were also our nation’s only three female secretaries of state.
Fact is, Girl Scouts is a name that unites tens of millions of women throughout the United States. Yet while we may share the name “scouts,” Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts are very different organizations, with very different programs. Both care deeply about building character and leadership but we go about it in different ways. The Girl Scout way is based on research and over 100 years of experience about how to build confidence and leadership identity in girls.
Girl Scouts is an ideal girls’ leadership program precisely because it is created specifically by girls — for girls. We provide a space for girls to support and encourage one another in a pressure-free environment. Our leaders, camp counselors and volunteers are all thoroughly vetted, and although moms, dads, brothers and sisters are all welcome, the focus is always on girls. The girl-only, girl-defined and girl-led aspects of Girl Scouts are crucial to what we offer, particularly for girls who don’t have access to single-gender environments offered in the school system. Research shows that girls can thrive in an all-girl, girl-led and girl-friendly environment where their specific needs are addressed and met.
We are giving girls the tools to be socially responsible, civically minded citizens. In an environment where girls are fully aware of movements such as #MeToo, we have a responsibility to lead them into those conversations with courage, confidence and character to ensure that their voices are heard.
Girl Scouts helps girls unlock their potential. We’re the world’s largest leadership-development organization for girls, and we welcome girls of all backgrounds who want to develop the courage, confidence and character to make the world a better place.
So what’s in a name? Well, a lot, actually. The Boy Scouts has no expertise with programming for girls and providing a safe, tailored environment for them to explore their interests and seek challenges. And signing up a girl for Boy Scouts and expecting her to have the same experiences is like writing a multi-octave pop song and asking the host of “The Price Is Right” to sing it.
Meridith Maskara is chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of Greater New York.
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