Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Anna Maria Chávez Participates in Panel on ‘Empowering Girls and Women’

Anna Maria Chávez, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA), joined leaders from academia, government, and the corporate sector yesterday on a panel discussion hosted by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), during which she released the findings of a recent study by the Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI) entitled Having It All: Girls and Financial Literacy. The panel, which kicked off NYSE/Euronext’s annual celebration of Financial Capability Week, focused on the ways in which girls and women learn about money and conceptualize the financial world.

In a presentation that set the tone for the panel, Ms. Chávez explained how, through the GSRI financial literacy study, the Girl Scouts sought to better understand how girls think about themselves in relation to money. The key finding, according to Ms. Chávez, is the significant role that adults play in instilling girls with the confidence to fulfill their financial dreams.

“Today’s girls feel financially empowered and independent, and the vast majority sees little or no difference between men and women in terms of their financial capabilities,” Ms. Chávez told an audience of financial industry experts and thought leaders. “Girls believe in their potential; they expect to be engaged in financial decision making, and see themselves as the financial head of their future households. But only 12 percent feel confident in their ability to actually make financial decisions.  There is a clear disconnect between their optimism about their financial future and their confidence in their ability to make that future a reality.”

Over 80 percent of the girls surveyed by GSRI reported having learned about finances primarily from their mothers, with their fathers, teachers, and guidance counselors falling next in line. 

“Girls are savvy; they are watching the way adults handle money and listening to the way they make financial decisions,” continued Ms. Chávez. “As with so many things, girls take their cue about their financial capabilities and set their personal expectations based on the behavior they see around them.  Parents and teachers must make it normal for a girl to be engaged in financial discussions. To teach our girls to be financially competent, we must reinforce what seems to be a natural financial confidence. That means including girls in daily activities like going to the bank, filling out a check, or making decisions about where and when to spend pocket money. It also means steering clear of negative stereotypes about women and money that make girls feel disempowered and disengaged.”

Cultivating the financial capabilities of girls is a key component of the Girl Scout program. Through Girl Scouting, girls hone their financial literacy skills through practice and engagement: they build and manage their own cookie business every year and earn financial badges such as the Financing My Future badge or the Money Manager badge.

“We have arrived at a point in our society where many of the pre-conceived notions and traditional prejudices about women and money are gone,” concluded Ms. Chávez. “All that remains is to encourage our girls to build on the confidence they already possess, and to empower them to believe that they can achieve their dreams and become financially competent.”