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vol_scouter

How has the addition of girls affected Scouting in other countries?

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There is a thread on family Scouting that discusses some of the aspects of family Scouting.  In the past, there has been discussions about 'coed' Scouting in other countries.  I would like to know the affect that adding girls to a previously all male program had on the membership.  Did it increase the membership or decrease it?  Was the change to make everything coed or were girls added in a separate but parallel program?  I would like to solicit facts about what has happened in other countries - not opinions as to whether adding girls is a positive or negative for the current members.  So facts, please!

 

Yours in Scouting,

Vol_Scouter

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Happy to oblige for the UK. I have opinions but will keep it factual. 

 

First of all the timeline for coed went something like this.....

 

Pre 1971 no female members at all, only female adult leaders. 

 

1971 - girls admited to what was then the Venture Scout section (15-21 year olds)

 

1991 - girls admitted to all sections (ie 6 and upwards) on a local decision (group by group) basis.

 

2003 - all new sections or groups to be coed, there must be the opportunity to go all the way through (ie if beavers, 6-8 year olds is coed then the cubs, scouts and ventures/explorers at same group also have to go coed)

 

2007 - all groups coed.

 

The exception to this is at what we call "closed groups". These are pretty rare and are groups attached to other institution, most typically a private school. If that institution is single sex then the scout group may be single sex.

 

It is permitted for a group to run a parallel but separate boys and girls program. In practice it is very rare and where it is seen is mostly at groups that are sponsored by a mosque.

 

The coed scouting rule has been enforced by national HQ to the point where a group of leaders at a group in Luton (not far from Cambridge) were dismissed for refusal to admit girls.

 

Numbers - this is a tricky one. There have been number fluctuations since going coed but they have not followed a pattern that matches the coed change.

 

From the 1960s through till the late 1990s numbers throughout the country numbers were pretty stable at 600-650,000. In the late 90s, from around 1997 onwards, they fell off a cliff bottoming out in around 2004-5 at about 450,000. Since then they have climbed steadily to around 580,000 at the last census in Jan of this year. If memory serves!

 

The number of girls as a percentage of membership has grown steadily but now seems to have now platued at around 20% although scouts and explorers typically have a greater percentage than beavers and cubs. (normally due to parents signing daughter up for brownies and then she decides to jump to scouts rather than guides)

 

Points of fact, I offer no opinion but worth considering when looking at how and when the numbers turned around

 

2003 - wholesale changes to the program including changes to age ranges, uniform and the badge system.

2007 - extraordinary levels of good publicity from hosting world scout jamboree

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Cambridgeskip,

 

Thank you for the excellent reply.  Did the change to coed for all programs in 1991 correspond to the large membership decline?

 

Vol_Scouter

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That is a very hard question to answer because there were so many factors in play. 

 

In addition I need to get my shoes on and go to scouts! I will try and give a proper reply either later this evening or tomorrow.

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I think this is a little complex. For example, Scouts Sweden was coed in the 80s so these (maybe before that, I don't really know).

 

I have scouts from Italy and the Czech Republic. Both countries have had coed scouting for decades. Both have a local option for sponsors who want single-sex units. The scouts I know we're from coed units and were quite pleased with how thier units operated. So in terms of morale, they are everything you'd want to see in a scout. (Then again, it takes a certain amount of optimism to be a young person making yourself at home on the opposite side of the world.)

 

The Iron Curtain having quashed volunteerism and scouting especially, Czech scouts have had bigger problems than membership requirements. The scoutmaster is responsible for a group of 100+ 6-12 year olds. So the older scouts are cub masters and den leaders for the younger. They also plan and organize summer camp for the entire group. It seems that the SM selects a balance of male and female youth leaders who work together to implement the program. They have had steady growth since the collapse of the Eastern block in the 80s. But, I would credit that to the inspiring youth-led movement.

 

The Italians have been coed for as long as I've been a scout. (In fact in the 80s, an Italian college girl once ask me to help start a scout group. I shrugged the idea off at the time. In retrospect, I regret not at least making the effort to ask around some local churches to see if any would like to sponsor one.) My current scout is veery enthusiastic about her program. When she joined our crew, she had her mom ship her uniform. Her unit operated along a nautical theme. And she dressed as sharp as a sea scout. (Although she made very clear they were more like our Boy Scouts, not Sea Scouts.) Their service projects included helping senior citizens boarding cruise ships. By her description, the sexes are never separated. By that, I think she means that patrols are mixed, and there are no restrictions on who bunks with whom. (It sounds like accommodations usually sleep 4 or more.) "We've been brothers and sisters together for years, so we don't think anything of sleeping in the same place."

 

I don't have census data on either country, all I can tell you is that is that these kids really got a lot out of their respective programs.

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Right.... back on it....

 

I'll start with facts

 

So strictly speaking, the large drop in numbers did follow the opening of all sections to girls 6 years earlier. That though does not tell the whole story. Bear in mind I was a 13 year old scout in 1991, a Venture scout form 1994 and a 19 year old assistant cub leader in 1997.

 

During the 1990s female scouts, outside of Venture scouts were rare. I didn't see one in my troop at all before I left for Ventures and my troop was in the process of getting smaller. There were the odd one or two here and there but they certainly weren't there in great numbers. Most beaver colonies, cub pack and scout troops were still boys only. The pack where I was an ACSL from 1997 was the only one in the district that by then had decided to admit girls and was still the only one when I left in 2000. Numbers though were still nose diving across the country. When I arrived in Cambridge in 2000 there were only two groups, that I was aware of, that were open to girls. And both of them were thriving!

 

In 2005 my group opened a beaver colony, something we hadn't had before, and as such cubs and scouts went coed as well. By this time I was CSL (ie in charge of the pack) and I can safely say we didn't have anyone leave because girls had joined. I can't speak for the scout troop. 

 

This was around the time that numbers across the country had turned the corner and was shortly after the whole new program was introduced in 2003.

 

Since then numbers of boys and girls have continued to grow.

 

What follows now is opinion

 

I believe the issue was stagnation. With the exception of some cosmetic changes there had been no significant program changes since the 1960s. In early 2000s scouts were being invited to wear uniforms designed in the 1960s. The trousers were particularly awful. They were awful. Scouting was not cool. In fact as a teenager it was pretty much social suicide to admit to being a scout. the age ranges for older members also reflected a world that had gone. In the 1960s most people left school at 15 or 16 and went to work. Hence that was when scouts finished and Ventures started. By the 1990s nearly everyone stayed at school to 18 and increasingly large numbers were going to university. the result was that 15 and 16 year olds who should have been PLs dealing with younger scouts were getting used to socialising with 17 and 18 year olds at school and didn't want to know about their younger charges. Similar the 19 and 20 year olds who should have been taking the lead in venture scout units were vanishing to university and the units were not functioning as they should.

 

Something had to give.

 

In 2003 Scouts moved to a 14 cut off, we had Explorers 14-18 and Network Scouts 18-25.

 

This was with a complete change in uniforms and a refresh of the award scheme (can detail that at a later date if you want)

 

In my opinion, it was the old program that caused the drop, and the new program coupled with the 2007 centenary and jamboree PR that turned it around.

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I've not got much to add to CambiidgeSkip's posts, but that's not going to stop me...

 

I do have census figures in a spreadsheet for the UK, sadly, I only have total figures up to 1994, then section figures from 1997, then detailed figures, including gender split, from 2007.

 

His numbers are pretty spot on, numbers were dropping all through the 90s, and turned around in the early 2000's.

 

Moreover, looking at the gender splits since 2007, the growth hasn't been in just girls joining, at the expense of the boys, there are more boys involved in all sections, as well as more girls. The rate of growth in boys numbers is slower than the rate of growth in girls numbers, hence girls are now a greater proportion of the total.

 

There was a not insignificant drop in numbers in 1991 (2.3%) but the census is taken in January, so I can only surmise that everyone was told "we're going co-ed next year"  in 1990 and a number of leaders walked away (despite it not being obligatory, though, knowing how these things go, it probably ended up sounding obligatory to some, in some places), meaning their sections closed. Numbers stabilised after that, before starting to drop again from 1994 onwards.

 

It wasn't just the older sections where the numbers were dropping, every section was losing members year on year. Roughly 5%. So it wasn't even that 

 

I was still a Venture Scout around 1991, but my dad was a scout leader, and I'm pretty sure a few of the scout leaders in our group were dead set against girls joining, and either would have left, or did leave, even if their troop didn't go co-ed, even the fact it was being done meant that they felt they weren't on the same bus, going to the same place on the same journey, no longer part of an association they wanted to be part of.

 

My experience chimes with CambridgeSkips too. My opinions and guesswork follow:

 

There was probably a lot of negative publicity around the gender thing, the conservative press I would imagine would have majored on how wrong it was that boys didn't have their own space, how scouts would be flower pressing and girl things, the liberal press would have been giving examples where girls wouldn't be let into their local group. So both sets of parents would have been thinking "scouts is not for my child".

 

I don't know what the effect of the uniform was, I know for scouts the trousers were awful (terylene anyone?), berets, cubs had caps, shorts, grey socks with garters, beavers an awful baggy grey tracksuit.

BUT

There are still groups of other non Scout Association scouts that still wear a very traditional uniform, and seem to be doing ok, to me they look like historical re-enactment groups, but the kids seem to be enjoying themselves, so who am I to judge.

 

I think it just fell, well, maybe not out of fashion, but no longer the thing you just did, that all your mates did, that was almost automatic, we no longer had that place in the national consciousness as something do to.

 

I know when the sections changed in 2002, there was a heck of a ruckus, there were many scout leaders very angry that their competent 15 year olds were being taken away from them. Some would say that it destroyed the patrol system, as in the UK our patrols were of mixed ages, so the PL and APL tended to be the oldest (15), and the youngest might be just up from cubs (10). At the time I was a Venture Scout leader, and we were doing ok, well, in fact, but we were increasingly the odd ones out. I think, though I don't have the numbers to prove it, that scouts was losing a lot of kids at around 14, when they became PLs and just didn't like it, voted with their feet. Actually, looking at the numbers, the scout section was the first to move from negative to positive growth, there was a blip when explorers started, -8%, but in theory in a section of 11-15 year olds, if the age spread was even, they should have lost more like 20%. 

 

I think the clincher was that they did a really good job on the new programme, leaders knew what sort of thing to be doing, what badges it led to, made it easier to volunteer. They also did a lot of positive publicity, they started using the media to their advantage, and they just started looking more modern and outward facing, no longer hiding in the hut, but scouts and proud. It started with getting a moderately famous person to be chief scout (no, the one before Bear, well he was famous in the UK ok?) which gave a voice to PR output.

 

It was ever a lack of adult leaders that limited numbers, but whereas in the past it seems it was the "old guard" finally giving up and their not full sections closing, now there's waiting lists in the younger sections, and parents wanting their kids to join. 

 

The girl thing is almost a red herring, we're just providing something that young people want, some of those young people are girls.

 

Ian

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 It started with getting a moderately famous person to be chief scout (no, the one before Bear, well he was famous in the UK ok?) which gave a voice to PR output.

 

 

 

 

Ah yes Peter Duncan..... He had been a children's TV presenter in the 1980s and early 90s and had a reputation for pulling slightly crazy stunts. In addition though..... turns out that when he had been a jobbing actor in his early 20s and hadn't broken into mainstream TV he had appeared in a few low budget films which were only just this side of being full on "adult" in nature. The tabloids of course spun it into us having a porn star as chief scout and was full of shock and horror. In terms of selling the movement to teenage boys though...... 

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Cambridgeskip,

 

Thank you so much!  This is the information that I want - what happened to the Scouting membership and why when it was opened to girls.

 

 

Ianwilkins,

 

Thank you for this most helpful extension of Cambridgeskip's information.

 

 

Qwazse,

 

I appreciate the information about how well a coed program has worked for some time in Sweden, Italy, and the Czech Republic. Do you have any information on what the effect was on the membership when the change from all male gender to coed occurred?

 

Thanks to all of you,

Vol_Scouter

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... I appreciate the information about how well a coed program has worked for some time in Sweden, Italy, and the Czech Republic. Do you have any information on what the effect was on the membership when the change from all male gender to coed occurred?

I do not have census data from scouting organizations with respect to the membership regulations. Nor have I seen anything like that online. (That said, look up each country's website.)

 

Like I said, I don't think the information will shed much light on the issue. The context in each country is diverse.

 

Sweden has had co-ed scouting since the '60s. It was a placement of guides (i.e. girl scouts) and {boy} scouts under one umbrella organization. There is a white paper of statistics from 1993 (http://www.usscouts.org/internat/wosmstats93.html) with their membership at 146,215. Scouts Sweden's website (http://www.scouterna.se/other-languages/en/) currently puts that number at 70,000. So, after being co-ed for 30 years, one observes a 50% decline over the next 20.

 

Czech, had no (legal) scouting movement for 49 years until '89, at that time scouting was allowed to be coed. So ignoring the political circumstances, one would observe that from the time scouting there was coed, membership soared from near 0 to the current 50,000. There have been ups an downs in membership numbers over the past three decades.

 

Italy, had their scouting bottleneck with the rise of fascism. After WW-II they reconstituted as a loose federation. And, having lived there in the 80's, I can assure you that they had striking regional differences from town-to-town that would defy national edicts be it in language, food, religion, or culture. Scouting was no doubt the same. Forming a unified organization has been a rocky process. And, sex-segregation played a role in that, but it's not clear when that decision had the widest impact. Their numbers were 106,485 in 1993, and 102,066 in 2012.

 

However, all of those numbers are favorable against trends in overall youth population. Of which Europe had been in decline. Here's a by-country report in great detail: https://issuu.com/worldscouting/docs/wsbero-membership_report_2013

 

The one striking decline that outpaces all others in shear numbers: BSA.

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...

 

The one striking decline that outpaces all others in shear numbers: BSA.

 

 

Qwazse,

 

Your last sentence is precisely why I am asking the question. There have been threads about whether the BSA should have units for girls or coed units or family units. My recollection is that, whenever similar changes have occurred in other countries, there was a significant overall membership decline despite the increase in the number of potential members. If my recollection is correct, then is such a change for the BSA a wise move? Can the BSA afford the decrease that has occurred in other countries? So far in this thread there is the case for the UK that did lose about 1/3 of the membership coincidentally with the change to a coed program even though all male units were still allowed. Cambridgeskip and Ianwilkins point to some other factors that likely were also contributing to the decline. However, one would have to believe that the decision to add coed programs was at least in part predicated upon the premise that it would increase the overall membership by expanding the potential members. To see the opposite occur is disturbing. My memory is that the UK experience has been nearly universal and I am wishing to verify those thoughts or to find that my memory is incorrect. The decrease in membership for the BSA is exactly why such information could be important. 

 

So, hopefully other Scouters will soon begin to contribute to this thread to answer the question.

 

Yours in Scouting,

Vol_Scouter

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Boy Scout units in the United States are owned by Chartered Organizations.  This creates a very different dynamic when talking about major policy changes.

 

I'm not sure the reaction to scouting policy changes in Europe can accurately predict how they would play out in the United States.

Edited by David CO

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Just a mathematical question:  If the membership is, say 100,000 members of boys and two years later the membership is 100,000 having gone co-ed, how much of that is number really the LOSS of boys and gain of girls?  Sure, the organization has suffered no lost of membership... or has it?

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Just a mathematical question:  If the membership is, say 100,000 members of boys and two years later the membership is 100,000 having gone co-ed, how much of that is number really the LOSS of boys and gain of girls?  Sure, the organization has suffered no lost of membership... or has it?

It would depend on what the limiting factor is on that 100K surely?

 

If the limiting factor is how many young people want to join then yes there has been a loss. If the limiting factor is capacity of the units then possibly not, depending what the limiting factor on that is!

 

Simply too many variables to give a straight forward answer.

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There is nothing wrong with discussing the potential consquences of somthing that could potentially happen at some point in the future, but I think it should be kept in mind that there does not appear to be any actual proposal being considered by National that would make Cub Scout packs and/or Boy Scout troops "coed."  I don't really see any likelihood that it will be seriously considered in the near future. Over the summer there was a statement by the Chief Scout Executive (https://voiceofscouting.org/chief-scout-executive-asks-us-serve-entire-family) that spawned a thread in this forum in which some people thought the BSA is heading in that direction.  However, the CSE's statement does not include a proposal to go "coed."  Instead it spoke vaguely about how the BSA should "begin exploring how we can serve the entire family."  The one actual example it gave was of several areas in which troops have formed a "partnership" with the GSUSA to create "programs" for the "entire family."  One forum member spoke of a similar program in his/her area. But this is not the same thing as a "coed unit."  In that statement, the CSE asked for a sharing of ideas about how the BSA could serve the entire family, but I have not seen any follow-up articles about what kinds of ideas were presented and what the next step is, if any.

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