As news broke that the Boy Scouts will allow young girls into their ranks for the first time in their history as an organization, many people asked why. Others asked what took so long. At the Girls Scouts of America, staffers seemed to have no questions at all. They saw the move coming when, over the summer, Boy Scouts of America floated the idea for girls programming, prompting a public excoriation. At that time, and now, the Girl Scouts had strong sense that the motivating factor was money. No wonder Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald, the child psychologist serving currently serving as Chief Girl and Family Engagement Officer of the Girl Scouts, was so cavalier about the new competition.
“I can’t really speculate on the why. I guess it’s perhaps membership challenges. I’ve heard a variety of different reasons. But what I really, really wanna get out there is that we don’t have membership challenges. We are in every zip code across the US. We have a diverse membership of girls.” Archibald explained. “We want to continue to grow that.”
Archibald pointed to decades of research showing that girls who participate Girl Scout events lead more productive and successful lives. “They have more successful careers,” she says. “They enjoy higher household and personal incomes. They’re more civically engaged, they’re better educated, they have higher levels in leadership both in their communities, and in their jobs.” These are, it should be noted, exactly the same arguments that Boy Scouts of America makes for participation. Scouts excel. Eagle Scouts in particular, do exceptionally well (though it’s tough to discern the cause and effect). The figures–and there are a lot of self-serving presentations available from both organizations–are compelling and more or less the same. The only difference is that the Boy Scouts have no data on the success of female participants because there haven’t been any. Girl Scouts have a history and a tailored program.
This is the point that Girl Scouts of America staffers want to drive home. It’s not about throwing shade on a competitor so much as it is about pointing out that the Boy Scout might have a bigger brand, but they have a smaller expertise and maybe none.
“Girls leadership and development is more important to families and to the girls themselves today than ever. There have been some cultural shifts, particularly in the last year, and families and society are seeing that there’s a dearth of female leadership and we have to better prepare our girls,” says Archibald. “That’s why Girl Scouts is the best.”
Scouts are competitive but they keep it on a low burn.
Archibald is not concerned that less fewer girls will join the Girl Scouts now that the Boy Scouts have opened their ranks. Well, she’s not the one lending voice to those concerns anyway. (“We’ve had competitors come and go and this is yet another competitor,” Lisa Margosian, the Chief Customer Offer for the Girl Scouts wrote in a statement distributed to the media.) Archibald is more focused on keeping her organization healthy, which it seems to be. After a small drop in membership around 2015, the Girl Scout’s membership has stayed constant. “We aren’t declining in membership,” she says. “We’re really excited about that and proud of it.”
She says that she thinks the Girl Scouts will continue to see interest precisely because parents look for spaces designed to help girls grow. The Girl Scouts is one of those spaces.
“The majority of girl’s lives are definitely co-ed. We believe that there are certain, special things that come when girls gather together,” Archibald says. “When they’re in co-ed environments, that are standard, relationships can get overly competitive, or stereotypically catty. We start with a culture of support and sisterhood.”