The Girl Scouts: On leadership, inclusiveness, and cookies

With the news that The Boy Scouts of America is toying with ending its discriminatory policy against GBT (and presumably L) people, I can’t help but compare them to The Girl Scouts of the USA. In fairness, I must admit up front that I am an alum of the organization. But that’s not enough to completely cloud what truly are stark differences between the two organizations.

Girl Scouts encourage activities — such as sports, camping and outdoor adventures, and pursuing interest in STEM — long considered “for the boys” according to sexist cultural mores. And that was just when I was a kid in the 1980s. They’ve come a long way since then. The Girl Scouts excel in promoting and providing opportunities for leadership. It turns out that 60 percent of the women in Congress — House and Senate — were in the youth program. Considering only about eight percent of the general female population has ever been a Girl Scout, this is pretty significant news.

Not only are the Girls more inclusive in their policies toward LGBT individuals, but when certain troop leaders have, well, gone rogue, the Girl Scouts have shown a history of acting swiftly to resolve those issues. Meanwhile, GSUSA does a lot to help make sure that girls who might otherwise slip through the cracks, or not have access, find a home in a troop of their own. From holding troop meetings during school lunch periods in at-risk schools, to welcoming kids with special needs, to the Girl Scouts Behind Bars program (giving girls time with their mothers who are in jail), Girl Scouts is adept at meeting the needs of kids in a complicated world.

Likewise, when a girl from their own ranks, working on an ecological badge, noticed that one of the main ingredients (palm oil) in many Girl Scout cookies was an ecological nightmare to harvest (let alone its links to obesity), the organization listened and implemented a plan to roll-out newly sourced palm oil while the ingredients in the cookies are changed.

Indeed, the Girl Scouts’ willingness to be nimble in a modern world may be its greatest strength. After all, what screams stuck-in-the-dark-ages more than a strict adherence to bigotry rooted in nothing more than “tradition” and ignorance?

I’m not saying that the Girl Scouts are perfect. No organization, especially one as big as they are, could be. … But I will say this: They have not one but two vegan cookies (one of them is the beloved Thin Mints!). And in its own way, that speaks volumes. I mean, what do the Boy Scouts have? Pop corn? Seriously?

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