Renee Parsons, co-founder of the Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation, shown with some of the Girl Scouts at the Bob & Renee Parsons Leadership Center for Girls & Women.
Why we need the Girl Scouts
The Boy Scouts announced they were opening their doors to girls last October. The opinions about this range from seeing it as a disservice to boys to seeing it as providing greater equality to girls. Some think, incorrectly, that Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are already the same organization and don’t understand the controversy.
Frankly, I see their move as a grave disservice to girls. And a cynical response to their financial problems and declining enrollment.
There are very few girl-only spaces today. Girl Scouts is one and all-girl high schools is another. I am fortunate to have had the benefit of both.
How did I benefit? In that all-girl environment, I had every opportunity to speak and be heard and take on any and all roles and challenges. This helped shape me into a competent and confident woman, with the firm belief I could be anything I wanted to be.
The research bears me out. Recently I heard Dr. JoAnn Deak, an educator, psychologist and author, speak. She confirmed that the research shows enough time spent in a single-sex environment builds girls’ self-esteem, leadership and achievement. Dr. Deak went on to say the research demonstrated that the presence of boys has a suppressive effect on girls.
While women’s participation in the workforce, higher education and athletics has increased, there remains strong gender stereotypes and bias in our society regarding traits, social roles, occupations and appearance. These continue to impact girls’ choices and how society treats them.
Girls need a safe, supportive space where they can be themselves and build their confidence. A place where being female is seen as positive, with inherent strengths. Where girls learn to support and trust their female peers. A place where girls’ abilities and career aspirations are affirmed, especially in STEM. Where girls’ voices, girls’ perspectives and girls’ way of doing things are honored.
This is what Girl Scouts offers to girls. Girls are first and given every opportunity. Girl Scouts are trailblazers, not tagalongs. And Girl Scouts is accessible to all girls.
While Boy Scouts talk about convenience for the family, a daughter is not a matter of convenience. Girls who join Boy Scouts will have to fight for themselves in a very traditional, male-dominated space, just as they do everyday in our society. They will be reduced to being “girls in a boy’s troop.”
Girl Scouts is the premier leadership development organization for girls, offering proven, girl-centered, hands-on programs designed specifically to meet girls’ needs. Girl Scouts is the oldest and largest girl-serving organization active in virtually every zip code in our state and in our country. We all have a stake in ensuring this essential organization continues to help girls thrive.
Betsey Bayless was the 16th Secretary of State of Arizona from September 5, 1997 until January 6, 2003. She was appointed to fill the unexpired term of fellow Republican Jane Dee Hull. She was elected to a full term November 3, 1998.