Friday, August 24, 2012

Girl Scouts Delivering on the Leadership Proposition

Houston Chronicle's L.M. Sixel reports that girls have higher grade-point averages. They are more likely to be members of the National Honor Society. And more women than men graduate from college and then go on and get graduate degrees.

But four out of five girls believe they don't have what it takes for leadership positions, Jamie Vazquez says, citing a study conducted by the Girl Scout Research Institute. Even though girls are excelling in academics, something is going on under the surface that is keeping them from becoming leaders.

Vazquez, who is president of W&T Offshore, an exploration and production company that is one of the largest acreage holders on the conventional shelf in the Gulf of Mexico, hopes to reverse that female leadership drain as a board member of the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council.

Part of the problem, Vazquez suggests, is that young women have a harder time seeing themselves as business executives or top political officials. Young men, however, have an easier time seeing themselves as a CEO.

"We thought we were past that," Vazquez says. "We thought girls can do anything, but girls themselves don't have that faith."

Girls tend to be self-critical when asked to judge their own abilities, says Mary Vitek, CEO of the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council, which encompasses Harris and 25 other counties in Southeast Texas. When the girls and boys in the study were given a list of the typical characteristics that describe good leaders, the girls rated themselves lower.

"When you see that in the girls before they even get to the workforce, they're opting out before they're even giving it a try," Vitek says.

My 18-year-old daughter has taken on increasingly complicated leadership responsibilities at school and in the community. She credits her decade as a Girl Scout as the "No. 1 factor" that gave her the skills to set goals, plan and delegate so projects get done.