Thursday, February 23, 2012

Anna Maria Chávez: "We have to be where girls are."

Fast Company reports that since taking the reins as CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, Anna Maria Chávez has been trying to put a new spark into her organization, which officially celebrates its centenary this year.

Girls Scouts have not been typically associated with innovation. Chávez believes that changing that reality--and the perception--is critical to the organization's continued success in the 21st century. One of the obvious places to start is by digitizing the Girl Scouts. "We have to be where girls are," says Chávez . "Girl Scouts was founded 100 years ago. We need to update the organization and our model, or else we're going to lose people."

In an effort to be where "young girls are," Girl Scouts has been piloting "virtual troops." Virtual troops are organized by program level, and have monthly meetings using the Adobe Connect Pro web-conferencing service. Weekly activities, analogous to the activities of an offline troop, are posted online, and the girls can complete them at their leisure. A virtual troop can be made up of girls from all over the world. At the end of a membership year, members of an online troop advance to the next girl scouting level.

Cookie sales and other formative Girl Scout experiences have played a role in developing the leadership talents of many high-profile women, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Designer Donna Karan, DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Kraft CEO Irene Rosenfeld. In addition 59% of women in Congress are Girl Scout alums, and 80% of women business owners in the U.S. are Girl Scout alums.

Chávez wants to see more Girl Scouts going on to assume roles in technology businesses and in social entrepreneurship. Today, the leaders in these fields skew heavily male. Chávez thinks scouting can have an impact on more generations of female business, technology, and social entrepreneurs. Explaining the gap, Chávez observes that "girls literally have to feel that they know everything about an issue before they can jump in and do something about it. Men are in the world where everything is possible. We're trying to change that perception for girls and tell them that can jump in to this world, that they are ready." Read more in Fast Company.