Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The State of Girls: Leadership

Over the past several decades, the role of women in the United States has changed dramatically. Women now represent half of the country’s workforce and more than half of college students and graduates are women. However, while there is high potential for women to hold leadership positions in business, politics and academia, there is a shortage of women actually in these positions. In fact, women hold just 14 percent of executive officer positions and just 20 percent of seats in Congress.

The Girl Scout Research Institute has found that girls are aware of the gender gap that exists in society. Girls view leadership in the traditional top-down, command-and-control style, but they prefer a more social and collaborative approach to leadership. They are concerned with ethics, holding true to their convictions and affecting social change. As more women step into leadership positions, girls see that they can achieve similar successes in the future.

There are external, societal barriers that continue to exist for girls and women when it comes to leadership. While 82 percent of girls and boys believe that girls and boys have similar leadership skills, more than half (56 percent) of youth believe that “in our society it is more difficult for a woman to become a leader than a man,” and 52 percent of youth believe that “girls have to work harder than boys in order to gain positions of leadership.” Girls who shy away from leadership positions report that they do so because they do not want to speak in front of others (45 percent), do not want to be laughed at (32 percent) and do not want to seem bossy (29 percent). And, while 92 percent of girls believe that anyone can acquire the skills of leadership, only 21 percent feel that they currently have most of those key qualities.

Girls need opportunities to take on leadership roles in a safe and comfortable environment. They need the support of caring adults who can broaden their views of leadership and help girls develop important leadership skills, such as conflict resolution, communication and problem solving. The girl-led experience of Girl Scouts is one way that girls can gain the support and opportunities that are key to developing leadership skills.

This fall, Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast has partnered with Thomas Nelson Community College, the Virginia Beach Branch of the American Association of University Women and Bon Secours Health System to host two forums in order to bring to light these key issues that girls face, as well as discuss solutions to improving the quality of life for girls in the United States.

View more information about the September 10 forum here and the September 30 forum here.