How Do We Solve This?

By Karmen Lemke, CEO, Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes

We hear in the news that there is a STEM workforce crisis, children are spending more time in front of a screen than outside, and that there is a global leadership crisis. How do we solve this?

Girl Scouts – the answer is Girl Scouts. Stick with me.

First, how do I know that – I was a Girl Scout, a Girl Scout volunteer, and now I am CEO of our local Girl Scout council. And I can tell you from experience that Girl Scouts doesn’t just exist in a world of crafts and songs. We are here taking on these challenges.

  • Reports show that STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) occupations are growing at double the rate of other professions, and we’re committed to filling the STEM workforce pipeline. To make it happen, we’re launching the Girl Scout STEM Pledge—a multiyear initiative to put 2.5 million girls through our hands-on STEM programs by 2025.
  • Eight in ten girls say Girl Scouting allows them to do outdoor activities they have never done before and wouldn’t have done otherwise. Girl Scouts opens the door to novel outdoor experiences.
  • Our Girl Scout Leadership Experience is a one-of-a-kind leadership development program for girls, with proven results. It is based on time-tested methods and research-backed programming that help girls take the lead—in their own lives and in the world.

The inclusive, all-female environment of Girl Scouts creates a safe space where girls can try new things, develop a range of skills, take on leadership roles, be themselves, and form lasting bonds with other girls.

Recent research shows that men and women need different kinds of networks to get ahead. Men benefit from being in a large network, but women need to be both in a large network AND “have an inner circle of close female contacts, despite having similar qualifications to men including education and work experience.”*

This concept of having an “inner circle” of female compatriots isn’t new to us Girl Scouts – we’ve been doing this for a long time, 108 years to be exact, and today our values are needed more than ever. We know our program works at the troop, group, and individual level.

What do 60% of women in congress, every female secretary of state, every US woman who’s been in space, and 53% of female entrepreneurs have in common? They, like me, were all Girl Scouts.

I’m here to tell you that today’s girls are bright and earnest and engaged. When we ask Girl Scouts what their favorite activities are, they always list community service in their top five – right up there with horseback riding. Girls today, Girl Scouts included, want to change the world. They have big ideas and Girl Scouts is giving them the tools to do it. Our program teaches them how to advocate for themselves and others and that it’s 100% okay to get back up and try again after failure. These skills are life changing.

I’m proud to be a Girl Scout and I want the girls in your life to be proud to be Girl Scout too. We Girl Scout are always ready to welcome more girls and adult volunteers to our “inner circle.” Join us – we have cookies.

* Uzzi, Brian. “Research: Men and Women Need Different Kinds of Networks to Succeed.” Harvard Business Review, 26 Feb. 2019, hbr.org/2019/02/research-men-and-women-need-different-kinds-of-networks-to-succeed.

Karmen Lemke is CEO of Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes and is passionate about empowering women and inspiring girls.

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