We all need to thrive for our individual and collective success. For the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA), that means preparing girls for a lifetime of leadership—from taking a night-time hike under the stars to accepting a mission on the International Space Station; to lobbying the city council with her troop to holding a seat in Congress; from running her own cookie business today, to tackling cybersecurity tomorrow. We learn more about the community-building work of this Independent Sector member from Judith Batty, its interim CEO.
IS: Could you tell us about the Girl Scouts of the USA and your work of building healthy communities where we all can thrive?
JB: Our mission is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place, and these tenets are infused into all aspects of a girl’s experience at Girl Scouts. Our program gives girls the opportunity to pursue topics that they’re interested in and learn how to take action on issues they care about. Whether they’re using their STEM skills to solve a problem, working to change a law to help their community, having an adventurous outdoor experience, or starting an innovative nonprofit, Girl Scouts build a better future for themselves and the world.
The Girl Scout program is proven to help girls develop a strong sense of self, seek challenges and learn from setbacks, form and maintain healthy relationships, learn to identify and solve problems in their communities, and much more. Our organization is for all girls, and we work hard to expand access to all girls, including those whose mothers are incarcerated and those experiencing homelessness. And we know from many studies that investing in girls does more than just open doors for them; it creates a path out of poverty for families, a more inclusive and effective government, and a brighter economic future for all of us.
IS: Talk about the challenges presented by the pandemic to continuing your mission, and how your organization is overcoming them.
JB: While there were immense challenges brought about by the pandemic, particularly as it relates to our primarily in-person program model, it gave GSUSA opportunities to innovate and focus on the needs of girls and families during this difficult time. In order to best support girls and ensure their safety, we pivoted to a virtual experience with Girl Scouts at Home™, enabling us to keep girls—especially our older girls—engaged and connected through live events and online badge experiences. Many troops continued to meet virtually and to be a source of support, connection, and fun for one another.
The pandemic also hit in the middle of Girl Scout Cookie season, so we created a new national online platform that enabled councils, girls, and troops to keep their cookie sales going during a key time, while also expanding the direct shipment purchasing options for consumers. We know that these online options will remain popular into the future so we’re constantly thinking ahead about how to best serve our members in a changing world.
IS: Independent Sector focuses on collaborating with individuals and nonprofit organizations to create stronger communities and a truly healthy and equitable society. How is your work advancing those efforts?
JB: We know we have work to do in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space so that ALL girls have a sense of belonging in Girl Scouts. To that end, GSUSA recently received funding from the Ford Foundation to support our diversity, equity, inclusion, and racial justice work and our commitment to becoming an anti-racist organization. The Ford Foundation’s investment will enable GSUSA to work with expert consultants to ensure we can continue on our journey of building an organization where all girls feel welcome.
We also work with other organizations who can help direct and inform our programming, which allows us to do what we do best: deliver and adapt expert content for girls in grades K–12 in a fun, appealing, and age-appropriate way. For example, our cybersecurity and older girl computer science programming was thanks to partnerships with Palo Alto Networks and Raytheon, both of whom funded and informed the programming.
By sparking girls’ interest in STEM, we are working to narrow the gender gap in STEM. Also, because we know there is a digital divide, our STEM programming is available both digitally and “offline,” which ensures that all girls can access STEM experiences and opportunities no matter their socioeconomic status, location, or access to technology.
IS: How does being an Independent Sector member help your organization better serve your community?
JB: Girl Scouts is proud to partner with Independent Sector, and other likeminded groups, to ensure nonprofits not only survive but flourish as employers that provide essential services to our country. We recognize that advocating with one voice for legislation and policies that have an effect on how nonprofits operate and serve their communities is a powerful tool. In addition, Independent Sector’s focus on ethics and accountability allows our organization to examine our own practices and those of potential partners.
IS: What is one of the most memorable moments that has occurred at the Girl Scouts of the USA that highlights your organization’s contribution to a healthy and equitable society?
JB: There are so many, but the most recent memorable moment was our launch of the Becoming Me Program in collaboration with Penguin Random House and Former First Lady Michelle Obama. The program, which is inspired by themes in Mrs. Obama’s book Becoming: Adapted for Young Readers, offers a unique opportunity for Girl Scouts to embark on their own journeys to becoming their best selves. We kicked off the program with a virtual event with Mrs. Obama, which was the largest virtual Girl Scout event ever, with about 100,000 attendees. Girl Scouts themselves led the event and asked Mrs. Obama many thoughtful and inspiring questions. Mrs. Obama’s participation was incredibly meaningful to the girls and connected to our deep belief that “if girls see it, they know they can be it.”
Another key memorable moment was early last year when GSUSA launched Fair Play, Equal Pay™, a gender parity initiative that engages businesses to take action now to help build a more equitable future for girls. One of the most comprehensive and solutions-oriented corporate gender parity programs to date, Fair Play, Equal Pay leverages the power and impact of the Girl Scout brand to encourage companies that work with GSUSA to take the pledge toward parity and equal pay for equal work.