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Sponsel Girl Scouts’ Benefits 
Boosting Confidence, Building Leaders

By Denny Sponsel

Last year, in celebration of Girl Scouts’ 100th anniversary, the Girl Scout Research Institute released a study on the organization’s long-term effects on its members. The results offer good news for us here in Indiana, for the girls and adults we work with and for the estimated 59 million American women who are former Girl Scouts.

Girl Scout alumnae are more active as volunteers, vote more regularly, are better educated and enjoy higher household incomes. This was particularly true for women who had been long-term Girl Scouts; those who were members for three or more years scored significantly higher in every area than alumnae who were members for a shorter time.

A girl earning the Girl Scout Gold Award is comparable to a boy attaining the rank of Eagle Scout. The United States Armed Forces recognizes this: Gold Award recipients, just like Eagle Scouts, enter the service one grade higher in rank than other enlistees, having already proven themselves as leaders.

When asked what they got out of their Girl Scout experience, alumnae frequently mentioned confidence. This is essential for anyone wanting to lead a successful life.

Where are the women leaders?
According to the National Leadership Index, more than two-thirds of Americans think our country is suffering from a leadership crisis. While women make up half of the U.S. population, they represent just 3% of Fortune 500 company CEOs and 17% of Congress.

Girl Scouts’ goal is to have significantly more women in powerful leadership positions in one generation. To do that, we must ask everyone – mothers, fathers, corporations and foundations – to help girls reach their leadership potential and place this urgent issue front and center. We all have a role to play in helping girls achieve their full leadership potential because when girls succeed, so does society.

Only one in five girls believes she has what it takes to lead. Girls highly idealize leadership qualities and skills like being talented, caring, honest, hardworking and confident, but they don’t see themselves equally represented in leadership positions. Our organization needs thousands of highly effective adult volunteers who are prepared to lead the next generation of women leaders.

Center to develop women leaders
Girl Scouts of Central Indiana impacts the lives of 40,000 girls and 18,000 adults in nearly half the state. We need a Leadership and Learning Center to provide a safe, central environment for volunteer learning opportunities and large collaborations. Modern technology for adult learning is also needed. We plan to build the center at Camp Dellwood, a Girl Scout-owned property on the west side of Indianapolis.

The Leadership and Learning Center will develop a new cadre of women leaders while reinforcing that equity and equality are critical to developing the future workforce in Indiana. It will include a technology and resource center, along with substantial space for volunteer collaboration and education. The campus will be transformed to enhance the Girl Scout Leadership Experience.

Projected costs are $6 million, with plans to start construction in 2014. Architectural designs will complement the existing physical setting of the campus and reflect environmental design practices.

Community support and funding
Our board of directors has approved a campaign to secure support for the construction of the proposed center. United Way of Central Indiana has pledged $1 million toward the goal. Girl Scout troops and families will be asked to help by raising $1 million.

By building a new center, Girl Scouts will save at least $70,000 annually. These funds will be used for additional program opportunities for girls and to defray costs to operate the new center.

We can do better
When so many individuals, families and communities are struggling to overcome economic and social challenges, there is no wiser long-term investment than in the powerful and emerging human asset – our girls. Girls represent our greatest underutilized talent pool and the one with the greatest potential for the future. Investing in them will produce the highest return in economic development and social progress.

We can't transform American leadership in a year, but we can transform expectations in a year. We can transform awareness in a year. And only Girl Scouts, with its scale and time-honored place in society, can make such a positive impact. If not us, who? If not now, when?


Author: Denny Sponsel is capital campaign chair for the Girl Scouts’ Leadership and Learning Center and president of RJE Business Interiors. For more information about Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, access www.girlscoutsindiana.org