Backed by 100 years of experience, Girl Scouts are unleashing a campaign to ensure that girls will strive harder to become captains of industry.
"Know that leadership is your birthright," chief executive Anna Maria Chavez said at a kick-off event in New York on Tuesday.
Ms. Chavez noted that 2012 is the "Year of the Girl," and that the goal of the new "ToGetHerThere" campaign is to "achieve balanced leadership in one generation, across all sectors."
A public-service announcement captures the spirit of the campaign: "I'm going to be the boss," says one girl, while other girls pledge to become a best-selling novelist, a film director, a marine biologist and secretary of state.
The Girl Scouts organization was founded in Savannah, Ga., by Juliette Gordon Low as the American Girl Guides in 1912, a year after she met Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides in Britain. Girl Scouts of the United States has since introduced tens of millions of girls to the world of self-reliance, resourcefulness and leadership through camping, fundraising and service projects.
The organization has long encouraged girls to become professionals in the arts, sciences, business and politics; some 80 percent of female business leaders and nearly 70 percent of women in Congress were Girl Scouts, Ms. Chavez said Tuesday.
But still, after a century of Girl Scout efforts, only 3 percent of chief executives of Fortune 500 companies are women, she said.
"Balanced leadership" means breaking down barriers that impede women from rising to their full potential, so everyone can work together for the nation's prosperity, Connie Lindsey, the Girl Scouts' national president, said at the Tuesday event. "This isn't about girls over boys," she added. It's needed because "girls and woman are so far behind."
A new survey of 1,000 girls, ages 8 to 17, commissioned by Girl Scouts, found that three in five girls think they can "rise" in a company but only rarely reach "the top." Many girls also believe women are more "weighed down" by family concerns than men when it comes to their careers.
The Girl Scout campaign comes to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to meet with members of Congress. The organizationhas set a goal of $1 billion in support, and is seeking mentors and corporate opportunities for its nearly 900,000 members.
Girl Scouts, however, has seen a membership decline in recent years, and it has been criticized for having a politically liberal bent.
The idea of more girls and women in leadership is wonderful, "but not if it means quotas," said Janice Shaw Crouse, senior fellow of the Beverly LaHaye Institute at Concerned Women for America, a think tank for traditional values.
It is also troubling to hear women talk about being "burdened" by marriage and children, she said. While both men and women have always worked, she said, it has to be balanced with meeting the needs of a family.
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