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Evaluating Girls in Scouts BSA Part 3 -- Impacts on Young People


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The impacts of adding Scouts BSA troops for girls and Cub Scout dens for girls have been tremendously positive in the lives of involved young women.

My observation these past five years is that our Scouting program in all of its aspects (outdoor, advancement, leadership, etc.) impacts girls just as significantly and positively as boys.  I have seen the very techniques that have proven so effective with boys work as well with girls without modification.  Girls who reach First Class receive a boost in capability unsurpassed by any other program experience for girls.  I have seen them do better academically in school, better socially among their non-scouting friends and far beyond their age peers in leadership-oriented activities outside Scouting.  The girls that achieve the upper ranks (especially Eagle) obtain an uber-confidence and poise that seem to propel them far beyond their age peers.  

In terms of leadership, we offer something to girls that is simply not available elsewhere in the youth services environment – to be truly in leadership of a large, sophisticated organization – with all of the successes, fails, pressures, high-stakes challenges and other dynamics we are all familiar with.  They become more organized, listen better, planning-oriented, kind and develop a keen capability to resolve conflicts.

I have no doubt that at least 5-10 young women who have gone through the leadership program of our large troop and NYLT-style instruction are going to have significantly higher-achieving leadership-oriented careers than they otherwise would have had precisely because of Scouts BSA.  The experiences available through other organizations would just not have opened their eyes and provided the right challenge to them.  What we offer is just as unique and rigorous for girls as for boys – so we should not be surprised when we see these young women soar in their family, school and career lives.  Some of these individuals will go on to have meaningful and positive impacts on our society. 

I have not observed negative impacts on boys or girls related to girls engagement in Scout BSA programming.  The over-the-top warnings that boys would somehow be denied the benefits of Scouting because of girls proved to be all talk and no reality.

In short, participation by girls in Scouts BSA has made them more kind, smart, confident, leader-like, and educated.  They do better socially in their families and peer groups.  The impacts we seek for boys in Scouting are being achieved for girls.  We have succeeded.  We need to understand and gladly accept this success.

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Let me say you have been extremely blessed in how your girl troop has worked out for you.  I'm not sure that others have been so fortunate just struggling to get leaders.

 

It does make one wonder why the GSA couldn't figure out how to make their program more supportive of what the girls want.   Of course my answer is because they didn't want to.

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46 minutes ago, PACAN said:

Let me say you have been extremely blessed in how your girl troop has worked out for you.  I'm not sure that others have been so fortunate just struggling to get leaders.

 

It does make one wonder why the GSA couldn't figure out how to make their program more supportive of what the girls want.   Of course my answer is because they didn't want to.

@PACAN, I can think of three striking disincentives for GS/USA to reshape its program into anything like BSA’s:

  1. It is quite clear that by-and-large parents are still preferring to send their daughters to GS/USA over BSA4G. (Some prefer to do both.),
  2. Girls in both organizations love both, and
  3. in spite of attracting a small number of girls, BSA has not gained membership.

 

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48 minutes ago, qwazse said:

Girls in both organizations love both, and

My daughters were like this at first. Over the last 2 years, their GSUSA troops have gotten weaker. They aren’t too sure about continuing in both. They have all said “Girl Scouts never meets”. Likely only my oldest will complete Gold. They are currently 14, 13, and 10 (soon 15, 13, 11). 

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12 hours ago, mrjohns2 said:

My daughters were like this at first. Over the last 2 years, their GSUSA troops have gotten weaker. They aren’t too sure about continuing in both. They have all said “Girl Scouts never meets”. Likely only my oldest will complete Gold. They are currently 14, 13, and 10 (soon 15, 13, 11). 

That’s a cautionary tale for us all.

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19 hours ago, qwazse said:

@PACAN, I can think of three striking disincentives for GS/USA to reshape its program into anything like BSA’s:

  1. It is quite clear that by-and-large parents are still preferring to send their daughters to GS/USA over BSA4G. (Some prefer to do both.),
  2. Girls in both organizations love both, and
  3. in spite of attracting a small number of girls, BSA has not gained membership.

 

100% agree ... GSUSA has 1.7M youth ... far more than BSA (who as everyone knows allows girls in).  While in my area, GSUSA is still going strong, girl troops and girls in packs are languishing.  I see perhaps 1 girl patrol at Klondike and other camporees and a few girls there and there mixed in with boy patrols.  Many girl troops in my area are struggling to hit the minimum 4 girls to register.  I talked with a leader of a council next to mine ... same situation.

While it is great to see a few good examples of girls doing well in scouting, it does not appear to be widespread.  I would love to see numbers across the USA, but that is hard to find (they were highlighting those early after adoption, but no longer).   

Where GSUSA struggles is post 5th grade (my daughter's Troop of 25 girls will not exist in 6th grade).  I wonder if BSA could have partnered with GSUSA for a program for older girls.  Now that will never happen. So, I still see the vast majority of girls enter into GSUSA (vs Cub Scouts) and then have little post 5th grade.  I think BSA has a chance if they could organize and recruit those girls into Troops ... but that is not happening (at least systemically).

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2 hours ago, Eagle1993 said:

100% agree ... GSUSA has 1.7M youth ... far more than BSA (who as everyone knows allows girls in).  While in my area, GSUSA is still going strong, girl troops and girls in packs are languishing. 

Is that number pre pandemic? because reporting during the pandemic was that their numbers were down to about 1 million youth.

2 hours ago, Eagle1993 said:

While it is great to see a few good examples of girls doing well in scouting, it does not appear to be widespread.  I would love to see numbers across the USA, but that is hard to find (they were highlighting those early after adoption, but no longer).   

Of the roughly 1 million youth registered, 154 thousand are female as per the dashboard right now.

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1 hour ago, malraux said:

Is that number pre pandemic? because reporting during the pandemic was that their numbers were down to about 1 million youth.

Of the roughly 1 million youth registered, 154 thousand are female as per the dashboard right now.

GSA numbers have dropped -- they are closer to 1 million than 1.7 million -- but not as precipitously as BSA. Interestingly 4-H increased dramatically from about 4 million kids pre pandemic to about 6 million now. Locally, I know a lot of kids who have discovered 4-H. It's mixed gender, family friendly, and very economical. Sports are also interesting. A lot of people are saying youth sports registrations are down, too, but that's primarily among the traditional types of sports that have been tracked. I can't seem to lay my hands on it, but about a year ago there were statistics about the effect of the pandemic on youth involvement in sports. While a lot of the traditional team sports lost players or reversed what had been an upward trend, a lot of youth apparently shifted to other more niche sports during the pandemic like mountain biking, horseback riding, and tennis, and haven't gone back to their old sports. Kid involvement in sports across the board -- when you add in the growth in new areas -- is actually up.  

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3 minutes ago, PACAN said:

@malrauxwhere can you see this dashboard.

People with district registered roles as well as council employees have access to the council membership tools, which lets you query the national database.

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2 minutes ago, MikeS72 said:

Is this a relatively new feature?  I do not recall noticing it in the past.  Good to know now where to find the most current numbers.

Within the last 3 months. 

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Girls participating in Scouts BSA love the program and it serves them well when troops are well run.  I’m glad that does not seem to be questioned in the comments.  So, it is really a matter of market penetration to establish, maintain and grow quality girl troops.  We can do that effectively during the next five or so years as we continue to recover from – well – just about everything that has challenged the BSA these last twenty years.

We can’t expect in four years to have developed the deep bench of leaders who have a particular interest in forming and supporting girl troops – especially women who have outdoor skills and an interest in being engaged in the program for the long run.  I will share a very hopeful (and unscientific) observation of women scouters present at a recent annual OA lodge banquet I attended for one of the largest lodges in the country.  The place was packed with about 400 people, including a very large representation of women scouters.  Anyone could tell they were deeply engaged in the program and among the most enthused Scouts BSA leaders.  This aligns with my own girl troop experience, where we are now attracting outdoorswomen leaders who do not have a child in the troop.  Further, mothers are remaining involved as leaders even after their daughters graduate and head to college.  My hope is that this is an indication that we are indeed building the adult leadership infrastructure that will help build bigger and better girl troops over time.  We all need to extend an effective a welcome to these female leaders. 

As for the GSUSA, I don’t know much about their program but do understand their business model.  It seems to be effective at recruiting both girls (and their mothers) at the early elementary ages.  Starting a GSUSA unit seems easier and requires fewer resources that a BSA unit.  Their financial model is dependent on product sales to fund the entire organization from local to national – and they seem to be successful at it in terms of dollars raised. 

Based on my observations of the 11-year-old girls and families that arrive at our troop, and what these people say about their GSUSA experiences, the GSUSA program model seems less successful at the Scouts BSA age.  Our Troop is direct about our outdoor emphasis and regularity of program offerings, and this is what causes these girls to join Scouts BSA.  The GSUSA has outdoor programming, but our families tell us there is a dramatic difference in the quality and quantity of outdoor experiences.  The same applies to youth leadership training.

I’m happy the GSUSA has a strong organization in our area and serves so many girls.  At the Scouts BSA level I just don’t think we are in competition with them or ever will be.  The programs at the Scouts BSA ages are just entirely different from each other and have different desired outcomes.  My impression is that GSUSA is very satisfied with their program for older girls and are not likely to adopt BSA-style practices.  I don’t have well-developed thoughts about the Cub Scout age level, where it seems more likely that there may be a sense of competition for girl members. 

While there might be advantages in working cooperatively, the GSUSA prohibits its volunteers and troops to work with us.  My conclusion is that we will continue to exist as separate organizations that will have minimal dealings with each other.    

 

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On 1/13/2023 at 1:36 AM, InquisitiveScouter said:

Explicitly?  As a parent of a Girl Scout and a Boy Scout, and working as a volunteer with both units, I never heard such a prohibition.

GS/USA tried to impose these strictures at a regional and council level in response to the advent of Scouts BSA. Memos regarding multi-organization activities began to be circulated. E.g., from https://www.gssne.org/content/dam/girlscouts-gssne/documents/GirlScout_Participation_in Activities_with_Other_Scouting_Organizations.pdf …

Quote

Girl Scout Participation in Activities with Other Scouting Organizations
The decision by Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to open the Boy Scout program to girls has fundamentally altered the nature of the relationship between BSA and Girl Scouts nationally and locally. Local relationships between BSA and Girl Scout councils that have led to partnerships and joint activities in the past will now expose our membership enrollment and brand to risks. This may mean that the relationship between a council and its BSA counterpart should fundamentally change.

I believe language of the sort made it into some troop training materials. (I say “some” because I suspect many trainers knew their audience was more focused on policies that helped their girls grow strong and good, and would not countenance time wasted on admonitions to protect a corporate brand.) In light of GS/USA backing away from trademark litigation this past July, one would hope that an encouragement to “play nice,” with other scouting organizations will also be disseminated. But, I won’t hold my breath, @InquisitiveScouter, for you to post such a memo from your GS/USA council.

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