By Tamara Woodbury
This will be a great year for women – and in part, you have the Girls Scouts to thank for that.
Right now we have two things to celebrate: The Girl Scouts’ wrapping up another successful year of cookie sales - last day of booth sales are March 30 - and a record number of women in the U.S. Senate. How do these relate?
Fourteen of the 20 female Senators sworn into Congress recently are former Girl Scouts. If you include those in the House of Representatives, 60 percent of females currently in Congress are Girl Scout alumnae. This number is especially impressive when you consider that only eight percent of women in the U.S. participate in Girl Scouts during adolescence.
I can go on with statistics – 80 percent of female business owners and 64 percent of females CEOs were Girl Scouts – but what is really important is how the Girl Scouts creates leaders. Leaders who are sales executives, financial planners, economists or the managers of their household budget.
The answer: It’s in the Cookies.
Probably the first thing that comes to most people’s minds when thinking about the Girl Scouts is the Cookies, most likely Thin Mints (one of my favorites). Many consider the Girl Scout Cookie Program a fundraiser, and, yes, with revenue of $715 million each year - 20 times that of membership dues – it is a major fundraiser. But it’s so much more than that. It’s the largest girl-run business in the world. It is also the largest financial literacy and entrepreneurial training program for girls in America.
The Girl Scout Cookie Program teaches girls the basics of running a business by emphasizing “The 5 Skills.” These are skills that I use every day as the CEO of the Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine Council and are skills taught in every business school in the country. Businessmen and women making millions of dollars each year have based their success on these skills. And I, too, learned the “The 5 Skills” when I was a Girl Scout:
Goal setting: Setting concrete goals help develop strategies and measure success. Girl Scouts set individual goals as well as goals to reach as a Troop, much like a business leader sets personal and professional goals.
Decision making: Perhaps one of the biggest differences between a leader and a follower is the ability to make a smart decision quickly. During the Cookie Program, Girl Scouts make their own decisions as to how they approach each potential customer, the amount of effort they want to put into their cookie sales as well as what the aforementioned goals should be.
Money management: You can’t make money if you can’t manage it. The Cookie Program teaches something to every age group: Daisies and Brownies (our youngest members) add and subtract, Cadettes and Juniors practice multiplication, and Seniors and Ambassadors estimate how many boxes need to be purchased to be sufficient for their initial orders and booth sales.
People skills: The fact is, more confident individuals rise to the top. This confidence is gained through stepping out of your comfort zone – something each Girl Scout has to do in order to make a sale.
Business ethics: Sadly, not all business leaders are ethical – but the most successful are. Girl Scouts are taught the value of a promise and delivering on that promise. No business can last 101 years without a strong, ethical approach.
More than three million Girl Scouts are involved in the Cookie Program each year. That’s three million more girls who will grow up with skills to become business leaders. And while the statistics of women in business and politics are not equal to the opposite sex yet, you can bet on these three million to help close the gap.
So when you go to pick up your last batch of cookies for the year from that Girl Scout cookie booth set up outside a local business, don’t forget to ask her about her goals when she sells you those boxes of cookies!
Tamara Woodbury is currently CEO of Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine Council, Inc., one of the largest Girl Scout councils in the country serving more than 24,000 girls throughout central and northern Arizona. Her leadership and the success of the Girl Scouts in Arizona has been recognized nationally and locally for innovative programs and business practices. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.