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Girl Scouts continues to build strong women leaders | Opinion

More than half of female entrepreneurs are Girl Scout alums.

Members of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania take part in a group activity at Girl Scouts' Camp Wood Haven.
Members of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania take part in a group activity at Girl Scouts' Camp Wood Haven.Read moreGirl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania

Last week, America celebrated Women's Entrepreneurship Day to recognize the women innovators who have created startups, driven economic growth, and advanced communities' participation in the economy. This week, we want to celebrate the work Girl Scouts has done to promote this kind of leadership for more than a century.

For 106 years, Girl Scouts has been the preeminent organization for building our nation's future women leaders. Before women had the right to vote, or racial and religious integration were common, Girl Scouts was a place where all girls could advocate for themselves and others and lead the change they wished to see in their communities. This remains true to this day. Girl Scouts is a place where young women become creative innovators in response to injustice, passionate champions for change, and civically-engaged trailblazers who make positive impacts on our world. And we have our girl-led program to thank.

Research shows that girls learn best in an all-girl environment, where their specific needs are met. As Girl Scouts, we couldn't agree more. The Girl Scout leadership experience encourages girls to discover a strong sense of self, connect with other people, value the power of diversity, and take action individually or collectively to make the world a better place. In girl-only settings, girls discuss issues they wouldn't talk about otherwise, try new activities without fear of failure, and experience less pressure to look or act a prescriptive way. We've seen time and again that our girl-only leadership development program is unlike anything else in the world.

According to the Girl Scout Research Institute, 80 percent of Girl Scouts possess a strong sense of self and 62 percent seek out challenges versus 68 percent and 42 percent, respectively, of nonmembers. Our programming provides the foundation for young girls to mature into high-achieving members of society. An estimated 53 percent of female entrepreneurs were once Girl Scouts. And 58 percent of the women elected this month to the U.S. House of Representatives — as well as all three women who have served as U.S. Secretary of State — are Girl Scout alums. Our research from a recent partnership with LinkedIn found that Girl Scout alums earn 23 percent more than non-alums and are 14 percent more in demand for jobs.

The beloved Girl Scout Cookie Program provides girls as young as 5 years old an opportunity to learn important business skills and experience financial independence for the first time. Through the cookie program, girls not only get a taste for entrepreneurship, they also get to give back by investing the proceeds into Girl Scout programs, camps, and training – learning in the process that entrepreneurship and community-building go hand-in-hand.

Our leadership opportunities don't end there. We also offer the Gold Award program, where girls identify a community issue and then design and implement a concrete and sustainable plan to address it. Gold Award Girl Scouts tackle such issues as poverty, sustainability, bullying, inclusivity, gun violence, sex trafficking, hunger, abuse, medicine, and technology. They've programmed robots, taught first-responders the basics of sign language, and designed seat-belt pillows for breast cancer surgery survivors. Less than 6 percent of Girl Scouts earn the Gold Award, but when they do, it helps launch their futures — ​they earn college scholarships, enter the military at a higher rank, and create a better life for themselves.

At Girl Scouts, "Can I?" quickly turns into "I will!" as our members transform their ideas into action, turn their questions into adventure, and grow their confidence through practice. The need for female leadership has never been more immediate, and no one does girl leadership better than we do.

Kim E. Fraites-Dow is CEO of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania. To join, volunteer, reconnect, or donate, call 215-564-2030, visit, and follow @GirlScoutsEPenn.