Girl Scouts of the USA Explores What Girls Need to Succeed as Leaders

New Insights from the Girl Scout Research Institute Help Build Change-Makers of the Future


October 25, 2007

Girl Scouts of the USA
Michelle Tompkins
(212) 852-5074

Lisa Harris
(212) 229-0500

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Confronted by a national lack of data on girls and leadership, the Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI) has launched a body of work to identify what girls need to succeed as leaders. This work is designed to support and accelerate a national transformation launched in 2006 to modernize Girl Scouting as the premier leadership experience for girls in the 21st century.

"In order to stay relevant to today's girls, we turn to the girls themselves to discover what they think about important issues," says Kathy Cloninger, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA. "The Girl Scout Research Institute analyses bring us closer to learning how girls experience leadership. This cutting-edge research positions GSRI as the go-to place for information on girls."

The GSRI has released a new review of research on girls and leadership, "Exploring Girls' Leadership," that identifies a lack of gender-specific data on youth leadership. To address the need for further research, the GSRI has begun an original national study scheduled for release in Spring 2008. In addition, the GSRI is developing tools to measure the new Girl Scout leadership programming to be introduced in Fall 2008.

"While many programs exist to help youth build leadership skills, very little data exists on how girls experience leadership and what they need to succeed in this arena," says Judy Schoenberg, Director of Research & Outreach for the Girl Scout Research Institute. "As the voice of girls, the Girl Scout Research Institute is taking on the task of identifying what girls need to develop their full leadership potential."

New Research Review: "Exploring Girls' Leadership"
The GSRI's new research review, "Exploring Girls' Leadership," analyzes the literature from the youth development and youth leadership fields and contrasts continued misperceptions with youths' realities and community approaches to leadership in the field. It also suggests areas for further study, such as the aspirational gap faced by girls who see themselves as leaders today but don't necessarily aspire to leadership roles as adults. In addition, the review gives voice to girls by including findings from a small online survey and focus groups of girls around the country.

"Our initial research shows that for girls, leadership is about the qualities one has, rather than about a specific role or function, and is often viewed as a clear means toward an end – to make a difference in the world," says Schoenberg. GSRI's focus group research, conducted with hundreds of girls from 2004-2006, suggests that girls have a unique definition of leadership that emphasizes developing personal strength and interpersonal skills. The quantitative survey supports those findings and shows that girls ages 8 to 18 believe that the qualities that good leaders need most are positive attitude, listening skills and confidence.

National Study to Shape Girl Scout Program and Policy
To address the need for further research, the GSRI is conducting an original national study with girls in and outside Girl Scouting, with mothers, and with boys. This research project explores girls' and boys' definitions of leadership, their perceptions and attitudes about leadership and leadership behaviors, and what they need to see themselves as leaders today and in the future. Results of this study will help GSUSA develop program and policy, and contribute to the dialogue about what it takes to grow and sustain girls' and boys' leadership aspirations through adulthood.

New Girl Scout Program and Measurement Tools
In fall 2008, Girl Scouts of the USA will launch the New Girl Scout Leadership Experience designed to provide girls ages 6 to 17 with expanded leadership opportunities. In conjunction with this new programming, the GSRI is creating tools to measure the leadership benefits that girls derive from Girl Scouting.

The Transformation of Girl Scouting
In conjunction with its 95th anniversary in 2007, Girl Scouting has launched a historic transformation to modernize the iconic organization and focus on leadership development for girls in the 21st century. In addition to creating new leadership programming for girls, Girl Scouts of the USA is revitalizing the Girl Scout brand, creating new fundraising models, improving volunteer systems, and significantly realigning the national Girl Scout council infrastructure. The monumental changes have been designed to deliver a program that focuses on Girl Scouts' core strength of leadership development, while also offering provable outcomes that benefit girls, families and communities.

About the Girl Scout Research Institute
Formed in 2000, the Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI) is a center for research and public policy information on the healthy development of girls. Through conducting groundbreaking research, the main goal of the GSRI is to elevate the voices of girls on key issues that affect their lives – such as their emotional and physical health and safety. The GSRI originates national projects and initiatives, synthesizes existing research and conducts outcomes evaluation to support the development of the Girl Scout program and to provide information to educational institutions, not-for-profits, government agencies, public policy organizations and to parents seeing ways to support their daughters and to girls themselves. The GSRI includes staff and advisors who have expertise in child development and also includes advisors from academia, industry, government and not-for-profit organizations.

About Girl Scouts
Founded in 1912, Girl Scouts of the USA is the preeminent leadership development organization for girls with 3.6 million girl and adult members worldwide. Girl Scouting is the leading authority on girls’ healthy development, and builds girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place. The organization serves girls from every corner of the United States and its territories. Girl Scouts of the USA also serves American girls and their classmates attending American or international schools overseas in 90 countries. For more information on how to join, volunteer, reconnect or donate to Girl Scouts, call (800) GSUSA 4 U [(800) 478-7248] or visit www.girlscouts.org.