Why STEM Matters for Girls: The Girl Scout Difference

Over the summer, Girl Scouts announced 30 new STEM badges for girls as well as new journeys. In November 2017, the organization pledged to raise $70 million to help bring 2.5 million girls into the STEM pipeline by 2025. While many viewed this news with enthusiasm, some still ask why it matters. Others argue not every girl wants to be in a STEM field and worry Girl Scouts is moving away from its roots in the outdoors. We’re here to help you understand.

What is STEM?

Before we continue, it’s important to identify exactly what STEM is. The acronym stands for science, technology, mathematics, and engineering, four subjects most girls in the United States will be exposed to, yet few will pursue.

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Why don’t more girls pursue STEM fields?

Think about the clothes you’ve seen in the kids section. The girls have frilly shirts covered with sparkles, claiming things like ‘when I grow up, I want to be a mermaid’ or ‘princess’ or ‘unicorn.’ Meanwhile boys clothes will say things like ‘astronaut.’

Realize it or not, girls are conditioned to think about more ‘feminine’ careers from a young age. This is encouraged through stereotypes and the underlying current of sexism that still plagues our society. One of our studies found that girls were less likely to raise their hand to answer a math question if boys were in the room, even when they knew the answer.

Since we started doing STEM programming, we’ve seen success in our Girl Scouts in a number of ways. One of the most startling is when a girl admits she thought boys were just better at STEM-related activities until she was engaged in them herself. If you want to read more about that and other revelations, check out the full report.

Basically, at some point it became assumed that STEM wasn’t for girls. We’re trying to change that perception.

It goes beyond the STEM pipeline

While we strive for equality in the workforce, both in job selection and salary, it isn’t our sole reason for encouraging STEM in our girls. Most people remember that Girl Scouts is about building girls of courage, confidence, and character, but they may not know the crucial second half: who make the world a better place.

We know there are things in this world that can be improved. Through our journeys and badges, we help girls learn about taking care of the planet and conservation. We encourage them to be away of their impact and what they can do to reduce their carbon footprint. Simply put, we were a girl-led green movement before it became popular.

We know it’s not for every girl

We’re continuing to add STEM badges in areas like cybersecurity, but it doesn’t mean we think every girl needs to become an engineer or scientist. We just believe every girl has the right to choose exactly what she wants to do, and we want to increase her chances of success by exposing her to different fields.

Maybe your Girl Scout wants to be a park ranger. Or a stay at home mom. Or an accountant. Or a veterinarian. Or maybe even a princess. We’re here to support her no matter what, so your girl can have courage, confidence, and character to make the world a better place in her own chosen way.

Why Girl Scouts should still be the choice for your girl

Today Boy Scouts announced a change in who they are – while its parent organization will keep the title of Boy Scouts of America, its actual boy scouting program will be called ‘Scouts BSA,’ starting next February. This change came after the controversial decision in 2017 to let girls join its program.

For more than a century, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts coexisted with programming designed to nurture boys and girls in separate, targeted environments with strategies to aid in leadership development. As the world changed, so did the programs to reflect the current challenges each gender faced and the best way to overcome. At least that’s the case for Girl Scouts.

It’s not a secret that both organizations have experienced declines in membership due to increased competition. Families are running from one activity to the next and for a number of reasons, including a lack of understanding, Scouting is falling lower and lower in importance. While both organizations have felt these effects, we’ve chosen to respond differently.

Boy Scouts is throwing up the Hail Mary by inviting girls into their programming. A campaign set to launch this summer – ‘Scout Me In’ – is designed to show the ease of taking all your children to the same meeting, making it more convenient to be a Scout. Rather than design unique programs, Scouts BSA will simply divide boys and girls where they will follow the same curriculum. A selling point is that now girls can also work toward the highly praised level of Eagle Scout.

What that fails to mention is Girl Scouts already have the option to not only reach that same level, but pass it with their project. The Girl Scout Gold Award, while less seen, requires more time and effort to achieve than the award of Eagle Scout. Because it doesn’t have the Boy Scout boost and notoriety, few understand just how incredible it is for a girl to become a Gold Award recipient.

More importantly, Girl Scouts refuses to budge from its stance on only accepting girls because it will not compromise its mission. Especially in today’s world with more and more women finding their voice and fighting for their seat at the table, we understand the value of what we do. We’re showing girls from a young age their value and letting them know they’re capable of anything. We believe in building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place, and we don’t plan to step away from that.

Girl Scouts is an organization that is fun for girls, but we can’t forget its importance. Yes, it might mean taking your children two places for their troop meetings, but your child’s future shouldn’t be built on convenience. While we try to make it as easy as possible for you, we want your girl to be a part of our organization because of what she can become.

We’re more than cookies, crafts, and friendship bracelets. We see the lack of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics so we’re creating more programs to expose girls to these opportunities at a young age. We teach outdoor skills and survival, all while making sure your girl is empowered.

Our programming comes from years of research to ensure we’re raising female leaders. Even better, we have proven results. All of our female Secretaries of State were Girl Scouts. Almost all female astronauts. Your girl has potential, and we want her to unleash it early and often with Girl Scouts.

Lee Snodgrass from the Girl Scouts of Northwestern Great Lakes council summarizes it well:

“We proudly own the ‘Girl’ in Girl Scouts. Since our inception, Girl Scouts of the USA has been about putting girls front and center, ensuring that everything we do is with their best interests in mind and equips them to be the fearless leaders and change-makers our more than 50 million alums prove themselves to be. For 106 years, Girl Scouts has prepared girls with essential leadership skills and provided them with a supportive network of girls and women who can face any challenge, from the wilderness to the boardroom, with confidence, compassion, and success. Our focus has always been and always will be girls.”

Girls Scouts isn’t just an activity for your girl. It can change her life beyond the memories she’ll make at at camp and the lifelong friends she’ll find. Just like you, we believe in your girl’s greatness. Join us today and help her grow.