Girl Scouts stress ‘girl power’ in new recruitment efforts


Associated Press

As American women seek a larger role in politics, fairer wages and an end to sexual harassment, the Girl Scouts see an opportune time to show some swagger in promoting their core mission: girl empowerment.

They recruited Queen Latifah to narrate a video featuring famous former Girl Scouts – Venus Williams, Katie Couric and many more. And they indulged in a little bragging when Girl Scout alumna Meghan Markle married into Britain’s royal family.

“Life is always better with a Girl Scout by your side, and Prince Harry truly hit the jackpot,” enthused a post on Girl Scout Blog.

But the marketing campaign is about more than boasting. It’s also an effort to confront several high-stakes challenges, including reversing a long slide in membership, making the case for all-girl scouting after the rival Boy Scouts included girls and updating the organization’s curriculum for a new generation that expects more than cookies and camping.

“What’s happening in society as a whole makes it all the more important for girls to have every possible opportunity to learn that their voice and opinion matter, and to have the courage and confidence to become who they want to be,” said Megan Ferland, CEO of the Seattle-based Girl Scouts of Western Washington.

One major challenge, she said, is to puncture some of the myths and stereotypes that affect public perceptions.

“People hear ‘Girl Scouts’ and think, ‘Oh, those cute little girls that sell the cookies and make macaroni necklaces’ and that’s it,” Ferland said. “It is so much more than that.”

She cited activities such as robotics and rock climbing, a strong emphasis on community service and the iconic cookie sales, which she depicted in a recent newspaper essay as “the largest girl-run business in the world.”

The Boy Scouts decided last year to admit girls into all programs. But the Girl Scouts’ parent organization, Girl Scouts of the USA, will not follow suit by admitting boys.

“I believe with full conviction that Girl Scouts is the best leadership organization in the world for girls, and that is because we are girl-led and girl-centric,” said Violet Apple, CEO of Girl Scouts of Central Maryland.

The Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, as well as other youth organizations and sports leagues, have experienced membership declines in recent years, for reasons ranging from busy family schedules to the lure of online games and social media. The Girl Scouts say they now have about 1.76 million girls and 780,000 adult members — down from about 2.9 million girls and 900,000 adult volunteers in 2003.

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