As Girl Scout CEOs, we see and hear the challenges facing today’s girls. But we also get a front row seat to something else – their nearly unlimited potential to lead, and to be the solution to so many of the problems they, and our society, face. To us, there’s no mystery why our alum make up 50% of female business leaders, 76% of female Senators, nearly every female astronaut, and 100% of all female Secretaries of State. Yet despite this, the number of women leaders in congress, business, STEM, and beyond remains unacceptably low. The lack of diversity and gender balance in these crucial fields is putting America at a disadvantage, economically, and politically, in the world.
Today, so many girls are already doing amazing things and getting national recognition for doing so as the rest of the world catches on to the power of youth. This year alone, a troop of Cadettes passed a city ordinance in Aurora, Colorado to ban smoking in cars with minors. In New Hampshire, Cassie, then a 17-year-old working towards her Gold Award, drafted legislation to raise the legal age of child marriage in her state of New Hampshire, sparking a national conversation about child marriage.
Emma from Eastern Pennsylvania created a buddy program in her school pairing general education students with their peers with disabilities to help bridge the educational gap. Her program was so successful that it is now replicated at other schools. Allyson from Delaware earned her Gold Award, Girl Scouts highest honor, by working with the Townsend Historical Society to preserve the town’s rich history. In Southern New Jersey, Anna, a Girl Scout Ambassador, earned her Gold Award in 2017 for her Take Action Project titled "Alice Paul's March on Washington: The Equal Rights Amendment” to commemorate Alice's March for Equality in Philadelphia.
But to really leverage the capacities of girls as a society, we need a way to champion their needs, voices, and ambitions, and come together to help girls empower themselves. Civic engagement is about taking a stand for what you believe in, and working with and through your community to find a solution that works for the majority. But it has always been, and will always be, more effective when society does this together, leveraging our assets as a whole. And girls are and remain one of America’s last truly great untapped resources.
So this year, Girl Scouts launched an initiative that would give the girls everywhere – the Go Getters, Innovators, Risk Takers, and Leaders (G.I.R.L.’s)– the platform they need to speak up and speak out, and take leadership on the issues that are impacting them every day. We call it the G.I.R.L. Agenda, a nonpartisan initiative to inspire, prepare, and mobilize girls and those who care about them across our nation, to lead positive change through civic action. We also expanded our civic engagement badges to include a Daisy Good Neighbor badge, and provided new ways for even the littlest leaders to channel their skills into positive change.
On May 14, hundreds of girls from our councils came together with leaders in business, government, media, and others to talk about the importance of civic engagement in our society, to illustrate how girls and women, through the power of the G.I.R.L. Agenda, can create those sustainable solutions by taking action locally, nationally, and even globally, to make the world a better place. Dr. Jill Biden will keynote, and two in depth panels focused on civic engagement and the power of girls will be hosted by our moderator, Dr. Melissa Harris Perry
Our girls are tomorrow’s leaders. They are the answer to so many of the challenges we face as a nation, as a society, and in our world. The G.I.R.L. Agenda makes tools accessible to all girls that help prepare them to lead, lift their voices, champion their views, and be advocates for the issues and ideas important to them. The G.I.R.L. Agenda is a powerful new tool in the Girl Scout toolkit, and we look forward to convening at Independence National Historic Park’s Congress Hall to begin a new chapter in female leadership for America and our world.