Girl Scouts Cookie Sales Cultivate Young Leaders

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."

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Need for Change

If we are to inspire girls toward leadership, we need to help girls change the way they see their own potential. Girls are growing up in a society that belittles their skills, their intelligence and their abilities by telling them over and over that the only things about them that really matter to anybody are their looks and their sexuality.

The top 25 TV shows for kids ages 12 to 17 regularly depict teen girls as highly sexualized and objectified. In these shows, 98 percent of the sexual incidents involving underage females take place outside any kind of committed relationship. Three in four incidents are presented as being funny (not to the girls; to the other characters and to the audience). And in these shows, 93 percent of the sexual incidents that involve young females are unhealthy, according to the American Psychological Association's definitions of healthy sexuality.

So what? Why should we care?

We should care because the message this stuff sends, regardless of how you feel about teen sexuality, is that girls are to be seen as sex objects first. If that's how we're teaching teenage girls to see themselves, it's no wonder they seek confidence in how they look and how desirable they are, above all else.

"Today's girls view being sexy as the ultimate accolade," says Carol Platt Liebau, political analyst, commentator and author of "Prude: How the Sex- Obsessed Culture Damages Girls (and America, Too!)" (Center Street, 2009). As a result, girls too often think the only way they can receive admiration is through promiscuity and sexual aggression.

What about admiring girls for expanding their horizons, growing in self-awareness, setting goals, using their intelligence or taking on projects that help others? We don't see much encouragement for those values coming from our society's center, or its top or its grassroots.

And if girls don't absorb those values as adolescents, it's going to be difficult for them to model those values when they become adults and parents.

Excerpted with permission of the publisher John Wiley & Sons, Inc., www.wiley.com , from "Tough Cookies: Leadership Lessons from 100 Years of the Girl Scouts" by Kathy Cloninger, CEO Girl Scouts of the United States of America (c) 2011 Girl Scouts of the USA.


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Kathy Cloninger is the CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA and a Women's eNews 21 Leader 2010. She serves on boards of the National Human Services Assembly of the National Council for Research on Women, American Humanics, and Leadership 18. She was named an NPT Power and Influence Top 50 by the NonProfit Times in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

For more information:

Buy the book, " Tough Cookies: Leadership Lessons from 100 Years of the Girl Scouts":

Girl Scouts of the USA:

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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!