By Kathy Cloninger
WeNews guest author
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Selling Girl Scouts cookies is more than a fundraiser; it shows women how to become strong leaders, says Kathy Cloninger in this excerpt from her new book "Tough Cookies: Leadership Lessons from 100 Years of the Girl Scouts."
(WOMENSENEWS)--There's a real difference between the way the public looks at the accomplishments of girls and boys.
People latch onto the cuteness and wholesomeness aspects of the Girl Scouts cookie sale because they really don't know what to do with the idea of girls acting in an organized, effective, powerful way. And we in Girl Scouting haven't yet done enough to publicize the fact that the cookie sale is a huge leadership lesson for all involved, not just an organizational fundraiser with cute little girls on the front lines to help boost sales.
For the girls, the cookie sale is a life-changing experience. It is the only childhood activity available to girls ages 6 to 17 across the country that is actually a hands-on business. It's not at all like reading about sales and merchandising in a classroom. You literally, as a girl, are presented with the chance to run your own business. And you do it like most businesses, in partnership with a team.
Better yet, it's a business that people see as important. Just being able to say "I'm a Girl Scout and I'm selling cookies" puts a girl in a position of respect, influence and approval. At the same time, she's learning how to interact with coworkers, how to play by rules, how to be ambitious, how hard work pays off and how to set both long-term and short-term goals.
The cookie sale is not just about how many boxes one girl sells. It's about how many boxes the whole troop sells, and what projects or field trips or adventures they'll all agree to use the money for in the next year. The experience of the sale is tangible; it validates a girl's worth.
Long- term goal setting? For 8-year-old kids, "next year" is long-term goal setting. But many Girl Scouts dare to plan further ahead than that. A friend told me a remarkable
story about her daughter, who joined Girl Scouts as a 5-year-old Daisy and stayed with the same troop all the way through high school:
"When the girls in the troop were in first or second grade, they decided that they wanted to go to London when they got to high school. They saved cookie-sale money every year, and they accomplished their goal. They went to London and visited the headquarters of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts and they stayed at Pax Lodge, one of four world centers for Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. They came back feeling like citizens of the world. Nothing else in my daughter's life did as much to help her set big goals and learn to achieve them as the cookie sale."
But unlike boys, girls are seldom encouraged to highlight their own accomplishments.
For example, a national poll of American women found that two-thirds of women of professional achievement, and more than three-fourths of those who were deemed "women of distinction" had been Girl Scouts in their youth. The same poll found that more than four out of five successful professional women who had been Girl Scouts rated their Girl Scouts involvement as helping them achieve later success.
Yet many women don't talk about their Girl Scouts experience this way. A man is much more likely to list Boy Scouts on his résumé than a woman is to list Girl Scouts on hers. Some women don't link what they did as kids with their adult lives. Others value the Girl Scouts experience personally, but they don't imagine that it's worth mentioning to anyone else.
Women haven't been trained or inspired to talk about their own leadership development. A lot of them believe that if they do talk about it, no one will listen.
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