Leadership

Girl Scouts Cookie Sales Cultivate Young Leaders

Sunday, October 23, 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.

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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.

Setting Long-Term Goals

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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The Girl Scouts of America has become a household name and a nationally recognized organization for young girls and young adults across the country to grow as leaders. Today the Girl Scout Cookie Sale Program serves a much larger purpose-it is an entrepreneurial program for girls. To celebrate the 100th anniversary, Girls Scouts of America is rolling out new badges to encourage the girls to become financially savvy.

Thirteen of the new badges are centered on rewarding girls to educate themselves about financial topics such as saving and investing, philanthropy, budgeting, and earning good credit. The Girl Scouts’ three million members will have an opportunity to have an early flair for finance, something that is an important life skill, and not always taught in school.

The Girls Scouts have grown into an extraordinary program for young women over the past 100 years due to the courage, leadership, and creativity the program gives to its members. Entrepreneurship is a driving force behind the Girl Scout Mission. At a young age through cookie sales, girls are given the opportunity to go door to door asking neighbor friends and family to support their troop. In the Girl Scout Cookie Sales, they have developed a program that teaches girls 5 essential business skills: goal setting, decision-making, money management, people skills, and business ethnics. The Girl Scout entrepreneur badge is a symbol that girls have confidence in themselves and their abilities to achieve their goals.

So the next time a young girl rings your doorbell with her Girl Scout vest and order form,” she’s not raising money for her local troop she’s learning how to start her own business, or become a CEO. The Girl Scout cookie program is not just a fundraiser, but also an entrepreneurial program for girls, teaching girls what it takes to be one smart cookie.

I'm a former "Curved Bar" Scout and former leader of an intermediate troop. Girl Scouting has the potential to be a great influence on our young girls. Many years ago, Girl Scouts of America started a new badge that taught about sexuality and family planning and choices. The Philadelphia Council stopped that in it's tracks - the Catholic church apparently has control there, and they were having none of this "women's freedom of choice". So I wonder if the time has finally come when Girl Scouting will accept it's responsibility to offer such programs for our grand-daughters, regardless of religious outcry. Also, I am not clear on whether Girl Scouts, like the Boy Scouts, are willing to kick out a kid if they find out the kid is (a) an atheist or (b) gay/lesbian. Until these factors are resolved, and it is clear that Girl Scouting is for "Community and Country" rather than "God and Country", I cannot in good conscience support them. And one other thing - with so many diabetics in this country who would be willing to support Scouting, it would be a nice thing if GS cookies were offered in at least 2 flavors made with Splenda instead of sugar!

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