I’ve been thinking a lot about Leadership lately—about what it means to me as a professional in the Girl Scout movement; about how generously women share their leadership through the various roles we play; and about how important it is for our girls to learn about themselves and their own leadership styles, preferences and aspirations as they move through school and their lives. It’s a complex world today, and while girls and women have all the opportunities we can imagine at our fingertips, female leadership is often misunderstood, under-appreciated, and undervalued. A recent study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, “Leaning Out: Teen Girls and Leadership Biases”, presents the views our teenage girls have about leadership. This research suggests that teen girls who are key to closing the gender representation gap still face gender bias from others, as well as have biases about their own leadership potential which constrain the actions they take in pursuing leadership roles. The report presents 7 helpful strategies for parents of teenage girls to help them guide their daughters and cultivate their leadership potential. Among those strategies is to expose their daughters to a wide variety of programs that build girls’ leadership skills.
Later this month, GSCSNJ will convene our annual Girl Leadership Summit (Saturday, November 14 at Rowan University in Glassboro). The Summit, planned by a panel of Girl Scout Seniors and Cadets, is a wonderful opportunity for girls to be inspired by women who are leading in a variety of professions. At our Career Café, girls meet women leaders to learn about career fields that they might not even know exist. At break-out sessions, they will discover how to advocate for themselves, build confidence around leadership skills like conflict resolution, and learn new skills in areas like finance. Finally, girls will have an opportunity to hear from our 2016 Women of Distinction, who will share their leadership journeys and tips for success. This event is always inspiring to me, as the women who come are so eager to share with our girls; their stories and counsel are inspiring. It’s energizing to watch our girls build relationships, and to see the spark in their eyes as they see leadership in action and connect it to their own interests and skills in the process. It reminds me, as the CEO of our Council, how important it is to model strong and effective leadership behavior in what I do every day. Girls won’t know how to use direct communication, how to balance their emotions in decision making, how to guide and lead others – if they don’t see women modeling those behaviors as well.
We know that girls can’t be what they can’t see, and that a key to building a girl’s authentic leadership persona is to surround her with as many positive role models as possible. Girls also benefit from the girl-only, safe environment we provide to explore, experience and learn. I hope to see you on November 14 at the Girl Leadership Summit. You won’t want to miss it!