Focus on: Negotiations

If you've ever had a heated discussion with Girl Scouts about activity plans (or haggled with a child over bedtime), you know that young girls can be crack negotiators.

Yet studies show that somewhere along the way, adult women become much less likely to initiate negotiations than men. That's according to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University.

To encourage young girls' natural skills, Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania partnered with Carnegie Mellon's Program for Research and Outreach on Gender Equity in Society (known as PROGRESS) to create Win-Win, a program for Girl Scouts in fourth through sixth grade.

The program goals are twofold, according to PROGRESS Executive Director Ayana Ledford: to teach young girls how negotiation can be used to settle a dispute and reach personal goals, and to promote awareness among adults about the value and power of negotiation.

One of the tenets of Win-Win is that negotiation is like a foreign language—the earlier girls learn it, the more it becomes part of their everyday vocabulary. Win-Win activities include role-playing and games that require girls to negotiate with teammates in order to complete a task. They learn how to identify what they really want and what they think the other person wants, and the difference between rude ways of asking for things and appropriate ways. They also learn how sales pitches, like those that they make during Girl Scout cookie activities, are mini-negotiations.

"Before the [four-hour] workshop, girls aren't even clear on what 'negotiation' means," says Martha Riecks, director of alumnae relations for Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania and one of the team who created Win-Win. "After they complete the activities, they understand what it is and how to do it."

Councils interested in replicating Win-Win workshops can contact Nicole Droppa at ndroppa@gswpa.org. Additional information is at www.heinz.cmu.edu/progress.

Mix It Up!

It's no secret that there's a yawning gender gap in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). But now GSUSA is bridging the chasm right where it counts—with a program targeted to girls in middle school, the crucial point at which girls begin to lose confidence and interest in these subjects.

Mix It Up! Guiding Middle-School Girls to Success, developed with funding from the New York Life Foundation, offers opportunities for real-life applications of financial literacy and STEM activities. Available online at www.girlscouts.org/mixitup, Mix It Up! walks adult volunteers through 32 activities to do with girls, from creating personal spending logs to trying their hand at designing a backpack.

The activities are based on the leadership keys of Discover, Connect, and Take Action. "It's the Girl Scout safe environment to explore financial literacy and STEM," says Diane Tartaglia, GSUSA project manager.

Rolled out in the fall of 2008, Mix It Up! was field-tested for the past year at "School Success Clubs" organized by three councils in New York and Massachusetts. One club, for instance, studied environmental issues, then looked for sustainable solutions they could implement in their community. When they noticed that there was no provision for recycling in their school lunchroom, the girls obtained permission from the school principal and PTA to work with the company that managed the cafeteria and instituted a recycling program. A year later, the program was still going strong.