Girl Scouts of the USA has shaped the lives of more than 50 million alumnae alive today, among them many of our nation’s female leaders. A national poll of American women, in fact, found that two-thirds of women of professional achievement and more than three-fourths of those who were deemed “women of distinction” had been Girl Scouts in their youth. The same poll found that more than four out of five successful professional women who had been Girl Scouts rated their Girl Scout involvement as helping them achieve later success.
Girl Scouts stand for much more than cookies, camping, and crafts. There is no other organization remotely comparable in size, experience, and resources devoted to developing leadership in girls. Kathy Cloninger, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, tells their story in the new book - Tough Cookies: Leadership Lessons from 100 Years of the Girl Scouts.
Tough Cookies addresses one of our nation’s most underused resources: Girls, and the women they ultimately can become. Kathy Cloninger makes a convincing case for the enormous untapped potential of America’s girls and issues a ringing call to action to girls, boys, parents, the business community, and the public to help females make a better, stronger, and more prosperous future for all.
Cloninger underlines her point with two very personal transformation stories. Cloninger, the first member of her family to attend college, was originally advised by her high-school counselor to set her sights on secretarial school. However, her instincts led to college, then to graduate school, to an extremely successful non-profit career, and finally to her appointment as chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of the USA.
The other story is that of an iconic but fading American institution that under Cloninger’s galvanizing leadership transformed itself into an envied and widely imitated model of non-profit management excellence. She renewed and revitalized the organization’s commitment to developing girls' leadership capabilities, and implemented a new strategic business plan affecting every major area of organizational activity: programs, volunteerism, brand, funding, and structure/governance.
Cloninger's more than two decades in Girl Scouting include service as CEO with Girl Scout councils in Tennessee, Texas, and Colorado; as national management consultant for GSUSA; and as a participant in groundbreaking task groups strategizing on girls' well-being. She was an executive grant-maker at the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, CEO of two YWCA branches in Texas, and a career development consultant.
In the spring of 2011, Cloninger was presented with an honorary doctor of letters degree by her alma mater, Texas A&M University. She has received numerous other awards, including Nonprofit CEO of the Year 2000 from the Center for Nonprofit Management, and CEO of the Year 2008 from the National Assembly of Human Services. In 2007, 2008, and again in 2009 she was named to the NPT Power & Influence Top 50 by The NonProfit Times. In May of 2010 she was named one of "21 Leaders for the 21st Century" by Women's eNews.
Most recently, she served as chair of the National Collaboration for Youth and secretary of the board of directors of the National Assembly of Human Services (2008–2011). Kathy is a member of the national boards of the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance and the National Council for Research on Women, and is a member of the Women's Leadership Board of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.
A native of Dallas, Texas, Cloninger got her start as a Girl Scout in her mother's troop. She earned an M.S. in counseling and business management from Texas A&M University, Commerce. She and her husband, Mike, favor country music and have hosted nearly 350 world-class songwriter concerts at their homes in Nashville and New York.