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Harnessing the power of girls

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girl scoutsby Jennifer Bartkowski, Chief Executive Officer at Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas

There’s no question when involved in Girl Scouts that girls are capable of pretty much anything. For more than 100 years, girls have built everything from robotic hands to libraries that teach new immigrants to read English. With the right encouragement, guidance, training and confidence, girls grow into women who change our world and lead it to great things. But getting them that guidance, reinforcing that training, and turning education into real-world skills and confidence is where things can get tricky.

The Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas has always known that girls are the key to our collective future. Gender balance at work and in society is crucial to ensuring all voices are heard and considered. To us it makes perfect sense that corporate board with a balance of men and women perform better. In Southern Denton County, we need to continue investing in girls to drive this leadership pipeline. Whether in the courtroom or classroom, women bring a unique perspective that will help Denton stay competitive among its peers. Gender-balanced leadership in business, government, and the nonprofit space is essential to ensuring America’s economic future.

Yet, too often, America as a whole has failed to invest in itself because it has failed to invest in girls. Today, fewer than 10 cents of every philanthropic dollar is spent on girls, and girls show a tendency to lose interest in the fields of tomorrow, like STEM, when they receive the message that science and technology is “for boys” from our society. This means we are losing out on the insights, ideas, and potential impact of girls for our future. It’s a simple equation really. If we want America to remain a world leader, we have to champion the types of programming that helps girls sustain the gains they make in school.

Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas understands the vital connection between the development of young girls and their future success. We support and bolster the benefits of school by fostering a safe environment where girls are free to experiment and apply themselves. This ancillary developmental step is crucial to empowering girls to take up the mantle of leadership in America. We also know that we get the best results when girls start young, and when their Girl Scout experience is tailored to bolster and augment the gains they make in school. The inclusive, girl-led, all female environment of a Girl Scout troop creates a safe space where girls can practice new skills, try new things, feel free to take up leadership positions, and yes, even feel free and safe to fail and try again.

As Denton County continues to grow, we recognize that the workforce is dependent on having girls prepared to enter STEM fields. That was the inspiration behind the development of the STEM Center of Excellence in southwest Dallas, a living laboratory where girls can explore science, technology, engineering and math programs, activities and careers. The progressive 98-acre campus serves girls K-12th grade with girl-led, hands-on and collaborative programming that brings the best of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience together with the best of STEM expertise in our community. Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas is raising $13M to invest in this facility which we expect to ultimately change the workforce pipeline in Northeast Texas.

This investment is guided by what we know about girls. In a recent Girl Scout Research Institute study, 74 percent of girls agree that they learn more by doing things than by being told things. A majority of girls agree that adults in Girl Scouts listen to girls more than they do in other places and that the adult makes them feel valuable. Finally, girls see Girl Scouts as a portal to access more information and experiences with STEM during the key career exploration years in high school. Girl Scouts has a legacy of being the girl expert; today we can apply those learnings to encouraging girls in the careers of tomorrow.

The good news is that Americans seem to understand the importance of investing in girls, and that the time to start is now. Our Girl Scouts Research Institute has released a pulse poll of American voters which shows that a vast majority of American voters believe investing in girls’ education is the key to our country’s advancement. American voters believe in the value of supporting girls’ leadership development through preparation in subjects, hands on experience, and career exposure to financial literacy, STEM, and business. In fact, 82 percent of voters feel that America’s future depends on preparing girls for careers in business, science, finance, and other careers traditionally dominated by men.

Wherever you see courageous, determined, effective female leaders, you are most likely looking at one of our 59 million living alumnae. With over 90 percent of Americans suggesting that they believe out-of-school programs play an important role in helping girls maintain their interest and achievements in STEM and other fields, the public support for the Girl Scout mission is there. It’s time for our leaders to hear from the overwhelming majority, and to harness the power of girls to help Denton County invest in itself.

Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas needs the community to engage with their work as volunteers, as investors and as advocates for girls. Contact us at www.gsnetx.org to learn more ways to get involved today.

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