Boy Scouts open membership to girls; Girl Scouts react

Following on the heels of an announcement by its national organization, the Del-Mar-Va Council of the Boy Scouts of America is set to welcome girls to its ranks beginning next year.

Representatives of the Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay, however, aren’t as thrilled with the idea.

“The Girl Scouts has dedicated a lot of time into research into the program, and at the heart of our program is the notion of being girl-led,” noted Gina Dzielak, communications director for the Chesapeake Bay Girl Scouts.

Voting Oct. 11, the BSA board of directors concluded several years of research with a unanimous decision to admit girls into its Cub Scouting program late in 2018 and into the ranks of older Scouts in 2019.

“The decision is true to the BSA’s mission and core values outlines in the Scout oath and law,” BSA Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh said in a press release. “The values of Scouting -- trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example -- are important to both young men and women.”

The new Scouting groups will not be co-ed, Bill Garrett, Scout executive and CEO of the Del-Mar-Va Council said: girls and boys will join separate packs or troops, although they may have female Scoutmasters. Scouting organizations across the country already have women serving in top posts, and girls are welcome in the Scouts’ co-ed Venturing and Exploring programs.

Garrett said the national leadership has not yet decided if the female members also will be known as Boy Scouts.

Cub Scouts cover programs for boys ages 7 to 10; they serve as Boy Scouts until age 18. Garrett said girls now will be able to take part in all Scouting programs, including competing for the coveted rank of Eagle Scout.

Only about 5 percent of all Scouts earn the Eagle rank, according to the National Eagle Scout Association. A number of well-known men have earned the Eagle distinction including astronaut Neil Armstrong, President Gerald Ford and current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Garrett said the requirements to become an Eagle Scout should be the same for girls as they now are for boys.

And just because they’ll have females as members does not mean Boy Scouts will be out selling cookies.

“I think that’s a knee-jerk reaction people are having,” Garrett said. “Boys Scouts and Girls Scouts do a lot of fundraisers, but that’s not why we exist.

“I find those comments not even close to being important.”

Anne T. Hogan, CEO of the Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay, said if girls do join the Boy Scouts, they could end up feeling intimidated by the boys and men around them. That is not part of the Girl Scout environment. she said.

“Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay is more committed than ever to providing girls with the leadership skills through the all-girl, girl-lead and girl-friendly environment that Girl Scouts provides, which creates a necessary safe space for girls to learn and thrive,” she said in a statement issued after the Boy Scouts’ decision was announced.

Garrett said he has a lot of respect for the Girl Scout program but feels the girls also can benefit from the Boy Scouts.

“The Girl Scouts do a lot of great things,” he said. “However, we have the same mission in mind, and that’s to create good kids with leadership skills and good citizens.

“We’re taking this demand, this interest we’ve had for decades, to try and provided an opportunity for girls in a different form from the Girl Scouts.”

They also are not looking to have current Girl Scouts resign and join the Boy Scouts, he said.

“Absolutely not,” he said.

In 2015, the Boy Scouts had about 2.3 million youth members, according to its 2016 Treasurer’s Report, while Girl Scout membership reached about 1.8 million youth in 2017.

Although many of the GSCB units work with their male counterparts, girls simply won’t have the same opportunities if they join Boy Scouts, Dzielak said.
Girls being led by girls is a fundamental aspect of their program, she said.

“The Boy Scouts is an excellent program,” she said. “It’s a very different program structurally from Girl Scouts, and most of that comes from the Girls Scout Leadership Experience being girl-led.

“Our main concern is the leadership development and safety of girls. That has always been our mission. The benefit of single-gender programming for girls is that it provides an outlet for girls to encourage one another and it allows them to fail.”

“Failure is an important part of learning and that’s the part of what builds leadership and character,” Dzielak said.

“Co-ed environments have different pressures that aren’t found in single-gendered ones.”