Telling people I work for Girl Scouts is an interesting study in human behavior. 95% of the time, the follow-up questions relate to Girl Scout cookies. Don’t get me wrong – I love me some Girl Scout cookies and think the Girl Scout Cookie Program is an amazing and important aspect of Girl Scouts – but it is only one piece of the overall Girl Scout experience. Girl Scouts has a huge leadership focus, new initiatives in STEM, healthy living, outdoor skills, and a commitment to improving communities in sustainable ways. I want people to know that Girl Scouts is more than girls selling delicious deserts. It’s a movement for empowering girls that is doing big things.
I knew I had found a kindred spirit in Angela High-Pippert when I read the title of her presentation – Beyond Thin Mints: Girl Scouts and the Leadership Development of Girls. I am honored I had the chance to sit down and talk with her in person, and attend her presentation at St. Thomas University last month.
Angela is a veteran troop leader of 12 years (pictured with one of her troops above) and the mother of two active Girl Scouts. She is also an associate professor of political science at University of St. Thomas whose body of academic work focuses largely on leadership and gender. What I found fascinating about Angela, is the way in which her work informed her role in Girl Scouts and vice-versa. Her passion for civic engagement and leadership plays a large role in the types of discussions and experiences she has with her troop, and her girls’ experiences with the Girl Scout Journey books were the inspiration for her most recent article.
Angela’s research for this article involved analyzing the content of the Journey books (all 18 of them!) and focusing on three areas of leadership development themes she found: being powerful, taking action, and being part of a movement. I could never do her work justice by summarizing all of her brilliant observations in one blog post. So instead, I present to you a few of my “heck yes” moments from talking with Angela, listening to her presentation, and reading her work:
- Journey books define girls as leaders, both now and in the future. Leadership is something accessible for all girls right now, it’s not a future state that they have to achieve. You can be a Daisy, doing something cool in your community, and you’re a leader.
- Journey books define girls as powerful (both individually and collectively), and link being powerful with taking action. Journey books give girls the message that one person can be powerful, and when she joins together with others, she can be even more powerful, and with that power, girls can create positive change.
- Journey books introduce girls to women they might not have learned about in school. In these books, girls learn about women that may not have made it into their history textbooks. They are provided with female role models who were able to accomplish huge feats because of their bravery and leadership.
- Journey books remind girls that they are not just a part of a troop but of a worldwide movement of girls. Girls learn that they are a part of something larger than themselves – a massive group working toward the same goal of making the world a better place.
Meeting Angela and learning about her research gave me a renewed sense of confidence in what Girl Scouts is about – developing a movement of strong, powerful female leaders who are take action to create positive change. (Go us!)
Keep up the great work, you creators of leaders, you.
Brianna Belmore – As a Troop Support Specialist turned Communications Specialist at River Valleys, Brianna loves connecting with volunteers and spreading the word about the awesome things happening throughout the council. In addition to being socially savvy and design inclined, she enjoys knitting, cross-stitching, and puzzling with Netflix going strong in the background. Brianna’s a self-proclaimed rooftop patio enthusiast and loves exploring the Twin Cities with friends and family.