New York — Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts pledge to be friendly and helpful. But their parent organizations may find that promise hard to keep as they head into a potentially bitter competition triggered by the Boy Scouts of America’s dramatic move to admit girls throughout its ranks.
The BSA’s initiative, announced Wednesday, has already chilled what had been a mostly cordial relationship between the two youth groups since the Girl Scouts of the USA was founded in 1912, two years after the Boy Scouts.
“We have always existed in a space with competitors,” the Girl Scout’s chief customer officer, Lisa Margosian, said Thursday in an interview. “What happened yesterday is that we have another new competitor.”
Rather than altering its message, Margosian said, the Girl Scouts will “double down” with a commitment to empowering girls.
“We believe strongly in the importance of the all-girl, girl-led and girl-friendly environment that Girl Scouts provides,” the GSUSA said.
The Boy Scouts’ official announcement of their new plan made no mention of the Girl Scouts, although BSA board Chairman Randall Stephenson said girls should have the chance to benefit from his organization’s “outstanding leadership development programs.”
The BSA’s chief scout executive, Michael Surbaugh, said in an interview that the Girl Scouts offered “great programs” but argued that many parents viewed the two sets of programs as significantly different.
Under the Boy Scouts’ new plan, Cub Scout dens — the smallest unit — will be single-gender, either all-boys or all-girls. The larger Cub Scout packs will have the option to remain single gender or welcome both genders. A program for older girls is expected to start in 2019 and will enable girls to earn the coveted rank of Eagle Scout.
Jan Barker, the long-serving CEO of the Girl Scouts’ Heart of Michigan Council, suggested that Boy Scout programming would not be appropriate for many girls.
“The Boy Scouts’ approach is very militaristic and top-down, and I don’t know if that’s the best environment for girls to feel nurtured,” said Barker, whose base is Kalamazoo.
“Girls and boys are wired differently — you can’t just put out the same curriculum,” Barker added.
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