Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Girl Scouts Building Responsible Citizens

Girls can’t be what they can’t see. A phrase I use often when speaking about the need for more women leaders and more mentors for girls. Well, the view for girls has just become a little brighter this year as more women have stepped up to leadership. This year is truly THE year for women in politics. We have the highest number of female senators ever – 29. There’s a female running for the highest office in the United States!

While that in itself it reason enough to throw confetti, there’s still room for improvement and that’s why Girl Scouts continue their mission of helping girls build courage, confidence and character to make the world a better place. Studies show that when women are given leadership positions in companies, the companies do better. It’s safe to assume that government and society as a whole will do better with more women leaders. To make it a reality, there must be more women in the pipeline to take on leadership roles.

According to the 2014 Girls and Political Pulse Poll released by the Girl Scout Research Institute, 67% of American girls between the ages of 11 and 17 are interested in politics. But only 32% believe society encourages women to be politicians, and, perhaps most dismaying, 74% believe that if they were to go into politics, they would have to work harder than a man to be taken seriously. Girls who responded to the survey had some suggestions for how to change the perception by girls that politics is not for them. Among the suggestions – they want more mentors, more support from teachers and other adults and better images of women in the media. A small list that would create a big change.

While organizations such as Girl Scouts can begin to address some of these issues and give girls more mentors and encouragement, based on a study from researchers at American University, Girls Just Wanna Not Run The Gender Gap in Young Americans’ Political Ambition, it will take parents, educators, peers and organizations such as Girl Scouts working together to give girls the message that choosing a seat in the House or Senate is a good thing.

Here are five factors outlined in the AAUW study that hinder young women’s political ambition.
  • Young men are more likely than young women to be socialized by their parents to think about politics as a career path.
  • From their school experiences to their peer associations to their media habits, young women tend to be exposed to less political information and discussion than do young men. 
  • Young men are more likely than young women to have played organized sports and care about winning. 
  • Young women are less likely than young men to receive encouragement to run for office – from anyone. 
  • Young women are less likely than young men to think they will 13 be qualified to run for office, even once they are established in their careers.
We’re in a pivoting place in our world’s future and in so many ways girls represent our future. There is great potential there and the possibility of building a new global leadership paradigm. Whether it's in politics, business, science, academia, or elsewhere, girls can change our world. We just need to lift the barriers open a space where girls are inspired and empowered to bring their talents to the political arena.

By Tracy Keller, CEO of Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast