by Lidia Soto-Harmon, CEO, Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital
Today’s women and girls live in a world where discrimination, sexual harassment and harmful gender stereotypes are constant reminders that they’re not good enough, smart enough, or strong enough. As a result, many hold themselves back. They keep silent rather than risk a wrong answer; they don’t apply for failure of rejection. We’ve created a confidence gap in girls. Now, we need to help them realize that gender stereotypes don’t define them. That failure is a part of learning and ultimately critical to success. It’s time to inspire, prepare and mobilize girls everywhere to create a brighter future for us all.
We know that girls are told from an early age what activities and even what careers are made just for them. It’s only a matter of time before they get the message and stop trying. We limit their choices and ultimately waste talent. Today, the number of women CEOs leading fortune 500 companies is in the single digits. Just 26 percent of computing jobs in the U.S. are held by women, and although women are leaders at the highest levels around the world, in the United States, every president in our country’s history has been a man.
To start, we need to develop girls of courage, confidence and character. That’s the Girl Scout mission. When Sir Robert Baden-Powell created the Boy Scout Association in 1910, he had just one problem: girls! They were trying to join, showing up at rallies signing in with just their initials. Juliette Gordon Low had the solution and in 1912 started an organization for girls, by girls.
Girl Scouts’ proven track-record of developing girl leadership is reflected in its outcomes; 90 percent all of female astronauts, 80 percent of female tech leaders, every female secretary of state and 75 percent of current senators are Girl Scout alumnae. It’s even more apparent when you meet Girl Scouts like Alice from Washington, DC. She became discouraged when she observed boys more aggressively participating in school activities, while girls in her fifth grade class were beginning to shy away from raising their hands. Studies show that in co-ed learning environments, boys receive more praise than girls when they call out in class, making girls less likely to raise their hands. Like a true Girl Scout, Alice took action by launching the “Raise Your Hand” movement, encouraging girls to take a pledge to be bold, brave and courageous in school and to Raise Your Hand.
That’s the Girl Scout difference. Girl Scouts don’t just see problems—they take action to find solutions. There’s a reason why girls who were Girl Scouts are more likely to do better in school and aspire to careers in fields still considered “boys clubs” like STEM. Because, in an all-girl, girl-led environment, Girl Scouts have a safe place where they learn and grow, void of stereotypical gender expectations. They take on leadership roles, try new things, fail, and try again. In the process they develop the resilience and grit needed to be competitive and successful.
The fact is we all benefit when girls have the confidence to take on challenges, speak out and raise their hands. Women bring invaluable perspective to the boardroom, the classroom and to legislative caucuses. If we are to maintain a competitive edge in a global environment, we must leverage our full potential and show girls we believe in their power to change the world.
Take the Raise Your Hand pledge by visiting gscnc.org/raiseyourhand
Watch Alice and our CEO talk about Raise Your Hand on Fox Plus