On March 12th, Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. officially turned 100 years old!! Many of you – in fact, more than 50 million alumnae in the U.S. – have your own fond memories of Girl Scouts. For me, the most exciting part about turning 100 is that today we are as relevant and critical to a girl’s development as we were when Juliette Gordon Low set out with 18 girls to provide the same opportunities as boys to develop physically, mentally and spiritually.
Today, I’m proud to say we are the nation’s premier leadership organization for girls and the largest pipeline for female leadership. It just takes a few of our statistics to realize what a profound difference we have made over the past 100 years:
- 80% of women business owners were Girl Scouts.
- 69% of female U. S. senators were Girl Scouts.
- 67% of female members of the House of Representatives were Girl Scouts.
- Virtually every female astronaut who has flown in space was a Girl Scout.
- Approximately one in every 2 adult women in the U.S. has, at some point, been a member of Girl Scouts.
To push this legacy of the past 100 years into the 21st century is daunting, but I can think of no other organization as prepared as Girl Scouts to take on the task. We are at a critical time in history, where girls today are exploring new ideas only dreamed about in 1912.
Think about the immense opportunities our girls today have in areas of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Research shows that 74% of high school girls are interested in the fields and subjects of STEM, yet only 25% of STEM-related positions are held by women. One overpowering reason girls do not pursue careers related to STEM is due to their lack of female role models in STEM areas. Girl Scouts introduces more girls to STEM activities than any other organization in the country. By exploring their interests in an all-girl environment, where there are no grades and they are free to engage in hands-on projects, they increase their confidence level.
Today’s girls see leadership differently than any generation before them. The challenges of the 21st century are complex, interconnected and, more than ever, global. Solving them will demand collaborative leadership and innovative perspectives. Girls must have a seat at the table. Our girls are influencing society through their Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards. They are even making a difference globally.
March is the month of “Women Helping Women.” I challenge each of you to join our Alumnae Association or become a Girl Scout volunteer and share your time, talent and interests with today’s girls, for Girl Scouts is developing the leaders of tomorrow, adding new talent to the pool at a time when it is critically needed.
Editor’s Note: Colleen Walker is Chief Executive Officer of Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas. In 2000, Colleen graduated from Harvard University with a Master’s degree in Business Administration. While there, she was awarded the Horace W. Goldsmith Fellowship for outstanding contributions to a nonprofit organization for services to Engineers of Dreams. Colleen has held positions with the Neiman Marcus Group, first as a National Marketing Manager, and subsequently as a Buyer for the Neiman Marcus Clearance Division. Through her leadership, the buying office grew into the largest, non-cosmetic volume buying office at Neiman Marcus, selling in excess of 1.5 million units for a total of $78 million for the fiscal year 2004 on a sales plan of $66 million.