Some call it a best-kept secret in leadership recruitment; others call it a business incubator with a 105-year track record. We just call it Girl Scouts.
In Greater Los Angeles alone, there are 40,000 Girl Scouts in the pipeline set to lead in industries where research tells us we need them most: academia, medicine, business, athletics, startups, STEM, and government.
As the largest girl-focused nonprofit in Southern California, Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles prepares girls in grades K–12 for a lifetime of leadership through access to impactful experiences, programs, and connections. Not only are Girl Scouts learning skills (like coding, robotics, public speaking, or budgeting)—they are also gaining the confidence and resilience needed to overcome challenges they’ll face in their industries.
Effective management, less corruption, higher profits, and more bills passed in Congress: These are all outcomes tied to female leadership. Leadership, the Girl Scout way, encompasses traits like grit, problem solving, and empathy. In Girl Scouts, girls learn that taking charge means taking action—and this carries into adulthood. In fact, 76% of female U.S. senators and 52% of women in the U.S. House of Representatives were Girl Scouts. And, many successful businesswomen were once Girl Scouts as well, including YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki and IBM CEO Virginia Rometty.
Below are just some of the recent stories of Girl Scouts here in LA who are demonstrating leadership as power with purpose. Imagine what they will do as adults in our board rooms, classrooms, science labs, and government offices.
Sasha, Brownie Girl Scout, Grade 2 – Nonprofit founder
Like a Girl Scout, Sasha has channeled her passion for painting to give back and lift up others. Through her nonprofit, the Sasha Project LA, she collects donations by selling hand-painted denim and donating her proceeds to the art therapy programs at Children’s Hospital LA. “Girl Scouts teaches me to be considerate and caring and to help make the world a better place,” she says. After building a robotic car with her Girl Scout troop, she is now thinking about adding technology to her creations.
Rebecca, Sofia, Jenna, and Joan, Senior Girl Scouts, Grade 10 – Architects
As middle schoolers in 2016, these determined Girl Scouts aimed to refurbish their school’s drab cafeteria to earn the Girl Scout Silver Award—this requires troops to develop a project that will change their neighborhood for the better. But with a local designer as their mentor and a benefactor interested in funding a rebuild, their project grew wings: The girls learned architecture, graphic design, and blueprinting. After interviewing community groups and presenting their ideas to school administrators, they completely redesigned the structure to include a new bathroom, bistro-style café, and more. The construction of the space designed by the middle schoolers begins this month.
‘Girl Scouts gain the confidence needed to overcome future challenges in business.’
Dagny, Ambassador Girl Scout, Grade 11 – App developer
At Girl Scouts of Greater LA’s first-ever Girl Scout Startup Weekend in April (in partnership with Google for Entrepreneurs and Techstars), Dagny was mentored and coached by local business leaders and with a team of her peers launched a startup—from pitch to product. The event included developing a business plan, marketing, creating a prototype, and developing an app and business model. After participating in a Shark Tank-style competition, Dagny’s team won first place for their app, Line Up, which allows users to play games with others waiting in line at amusement parks.
Mackenzie, Ambassador Girl Scout, Grade 12 – Event Director
To earn the Girl Scout Gold Award, which challenges girls to lead a large-scale, sustainable project addressing a community issue, Mackenzie created her school’s first women’s empowerment conference. She led a group of 30 peers in planning the event, negotiated with vendors, established a strong brand and marketing plan, organized logistics, and recruited high-profile women to speak, including writer and TV producer Marta Kauffman (Friends co-creator). “Earning my Gold Award taught me how to be an engaging leader. I needed to be confident enough with my vision to lead and motivate my peers. I gained skills in public speaking, negotiation, and communicating with high-level executives.”
According to the World Economic Forum, a lack of leadership is considered among the top three global challenges, with 86% of people saying we are currently facing a leadership crisis. But when we look at what girls can do when they put on their power suit—a Girl Scout sash—the answer becomes clear: If we want more effective leaders in business and across all industries, we simply need more Girl Scouts.
Melanie Larsen is Communications Manager, Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles. Learn more at girlscoutsla.org.