A couple of weeks ago, I attended Dell's annual DWEN Summit in Berlin, Germany. Along with some of today's global leading ladies of innovation — ranging from the founders of companies like digital video platform Smartzer to France's version of AirBnB BedyCasa--I had the distinct pleasure of meeting a CEO from one of the more "matured" organizations: Anna Maria Chávez, Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA).
That's right. With 103 years under its very colorful, badged uniform belt, the GSUSA is changing the way young gals think about technology while simultaneously implementing programs and opportunities to develop the next generation of what Chávez calls "entrepreneurial leaders."
She knows a thing or two (or hundred!) about leadership, having served as senior policy advisor to former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney E. Slater during the Clinton Administration and deputy chief of staff for urban relations and community development under then-Governor of Arizona, Janet Napolitano.
Now, she is basically taking the Girl Scouts through a "tech renaissance."
"This [renaissance] includes inside and out, and aligning the organization with technologies that can provide the best customer service to all those engaged with Girl Scouts including volunteers and parents, and the best possible Girl Scout experience to our primary customer…girls," says Chávez.
The Girl Scouts considers itself a "girl expert" organization and generates original research through Girl Scouts Research Institute in order to have a solid of understanding of what girls think and how they feel about themselves in relation to important subjects to their leadership development like STEM.
She adds: "Societies, business leaders, and governments all over the world must stand up and recognize the values and ideals that sit at the very core of the Girl Scout mission--the idea that girls matter."
To that end, the GSUSA is focusing on some pretty stellar initiatives over the next few years, all of which serve their end goal of developing young girls into the leaders of tomorrow.
#1 – Digital Cookie
GSUSA has digitized the Girl Scout Cookies business to teach vital entrepreneurial lessons in e-marketing, e-commerce, digital money management and online customer relations. Through Digital Cookie, girls use web tools to sell cookies, track sales and inventory and set goals through an online dashboard.
#2 – Girls Go Techbridge
Techbridge, a program of the Chabot Space & Science Center for middle school girls, has been working with GSUSA since 2008 to create engineering "programs-in-a-box." With lesson plans and materials provided by Techbridge, girls get participate in hands-on engineering activities to three of the GSUSA Journeys: aMUSE, GIRLtopia, BLISS: Live It! Give It!
#3 – Journey and Connect Through Tech
This collaboration with Dell to engage underserved girls in leadership and technology skill-building experiences. The program introduces Information and Communications Technology concepts, promotes skills in critical thinking and teamwork and reveals possible careers in ICT. The focus of this the Journey and Connect Through Tech program is Dell's Be the Video Game Developer initiative. Girls get to work on teams to design video games (choose backgrounds, characters, etc.), code them, play them, and share with family and friends.
#4 – AT&T Imagine Your STEM Future – GSUSA has also collaborated with AT&T to reach 6,000 young women from low-income and underserved communities and introduce a variety of career options in STEM fields. The four-part series is designed for 9th-12th grade girls to peak interest in STEM careers through activities and discussions that inspire them to explore opportunities in STEM.
#5 – Made with Code – GSUSA is part of Google's Made with Code initiative, a program designed to inspire millions of girls to experience the power of coding. Online, girls have access to fun and creative games, moving videos, and profiles of girls and women who are using code to achieve their dreams. To engage girls further, Made with Code also offers coding classes, game workshops and app camps where girls can expand their skillsets while getting making connection in the evolving Made with Code community.
Shameless Girls Scouts plug...
So if you have a daughter, lil’ sister, granddaughter, niece, or mentee--and think the Girl Scouts is just about camping and cookies--I would strongly reconsider that stereotype and check out what they are doing to move the needle in terms of facilitating more girls pursuing their passions in the technology and engineering realm.
Enjoy those digital cookies!