“I should have sent them a thank-you note,” said Megan Ferland, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Western Washington, as Boy Scouts of America — newly renamed Scouts BSA — announced it would invite girls into its ranks. The Girl Scouts are seeing renewed interest.
The motto of the Boy Scouts of America is “Be Prepared.”
But when it came to inviting girls into its ranks, well, it doesn’t look like the organization thought things through.
As girls started joining Cub Scouts — older girls will be allowed starting in 2019 — the Boy Scouts of America took the opportunity to announce its new name: Scouts BSA. They dropped “Boy” from the front — but still tacked it onto the back in the acronym for its parent organization. As if we wouldn’t notice.
“It’s still ‘Boy Scouts of America,’ ” said Megan Ferland, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Western Washington the other day. “It still stands for ‘boy.’ They’re letting girls in, but it’s still the Boys Scouts.
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“With the Girl Scouts, girls aren’t an afterthought.”
Since the announcement, Ferland has seen new attention being given to the unique role that the Girl Scouts of America plays in the lives of girls and young women.
“I should have sent them a thank-you note,” Ferland said of the Boy Scouts. “They are generating new interest and giving us a platform and propelling us to tell our story.”
The public is reaching out more to offer support, and membership “continues to climb,” Ferland said, but doesn’t have official numbers.
“It has to do with families,” said Mike Quirk, the Scout executive for the Chief Seattle Council. “For decades, they have been asking for a program for girls. We finally listened to our own family members.” (So far, 104 girls have joined the Cub Scouts here, he said. More will be able to join in the fall.)
Why wouldn’t these girls just become Girl Scouts?
“They still can,” Quirk said. “Girl Scouts are still a very good option for a lot of girls.”
To Ferland, it is the best option.
“We’re here because of a mission,” she said. “You’re not doing the best things for kids when you’re not driven by a mission.”
Thanks to the last 18 months of female uprising, of girls marching with their mothers and engaging in community outreach (some for the first time in their lives), the Girl Scout mission has grown well beyond the cute stage.
“We need to get past the myth that Girl Scouts are all crafts, camp and cookies and making macaroni necklaces,” Ferland said. “We are heightening our voices and wanting to amplify our stands. This is the bedrock of who we are and what we do.”
Six years ago, the Western Washington Council prioritized diversity, equity and inclusion, and now require staffers to participate in 32 hours of what’s called DEI training.
Two years ago, the council made national news when it returned a $100,000 donation that came with a provision that the money couldn’t be used to support transgender girls.
“As long as you don’t live as a boy, you’re welcome,” Ferland said. “We’re your place.”
Within the troops, Scouts as young as Brownies (ages 7 to 9) participate in “Power Up,” a program focused on preventing bullying. As girls get older, the program progresses into relational violence in teen relationships, and what is and isn’t harassment.
Scouts of all ages are participating in a vibrant STEM program that Ferland hopes to expand all over the state. Last fall, Google announced a $50,000 donation to the council to help it grow.
Inside the council’s Georgetown offices is a “Maker’s Space,” where Scouts hone their science and technology skills, including robotics. Ferland hopes to create a Mobile Maker’s Space that can visit Scouts in other parts of the state.
At the high-school level, Girl Scouts are part of a Global Action Team that has launched health care projects for women and girls in Third World countries. If they stay with the Girl Scouts through high school, they can become Gold Award earners, which is recognized on college admissions and allows them to enter the Armed Forces at a higher rank.
Ferland doesn’t understand why a girl wouldn’t stay with Girl Scouts through high school.
“That’s when all the amazing stuff happens,” Ferland said. “The older you get, the more powerful the opportunities become.”
Those opportunities — and skills — can serve young women throughout their lives.
In a recent opinion piece in The Seattle Times, Ferland noted that while women represent only 6 percent of CEOs in our country’s biggest companies, 80 percent of all female business owners were Girl Scouts. And while only 21 percent of U.S. senators are women, 71 percent were Girl Scouts.
“Here is the life impact that Girl Scouts can offer girls,” Ferland said. “Here are the ways we can put her on the path to being a strong, confident lifelong leader in whatever area she wants her role to be.”
So while it’s great that the Boy Scouts have opened their doors to girls — and even changed their name! — the Girl Scouts are giving them all they need to bust down a few of their own.