Local leaders are working out how to incorporate new rules after Boy Scouts of America in October announced it would admit girls into the organization starting next year, marking a significant and historic shift in policy.
The girls would join an all-girl Cub Scout den, while boys would remain in all-boy dens, officials said. It was unclear whether the organization intended to integrate groups of older children.
“The details are not out yet,” said Charlie Tinsley, scout executive of the Bay Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, which is based in Galveston.
Boy Scouts councils also plan to recruit older girls to join in 2019 and to allow them to earn the Eagle Scout rank, but it wants them also to stay in an all-girl troop while the umbrella organization would retain the gender-specific name of Boy Scouts of America.
“The Boy Scout program is all about leadership, life skills and character skills,” Tinsley said. “The organization’s mission is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices.”
The move to recruit girls did not surprise Galveston resident Kevin Moran, who is a Troop 177 committee member and a former assistant Scout leader. Scout leaders in the Galveston area have been talking about the inevitability of including girls for years, he said.
“It didn’t come on suddenly,” Moran said. “The program itself would be as good for girls as it is for boys.”
The Boy Scouts of America isn’t giving interviews on the topic, but an Oct. 11 announcement from the organization stated the shift was inspired by requests from families to include girls.
“The BSA’s record of producing leaders with high character and integrity is amazing,” Randall Stephenson, the organization’s national board chairman said at the time. “I’ve seen nothing that develops leadership skills and discipline like this organization. It is time to make these outstanding leadership development programs available to girls.”
Meanwhile, Girl Scouts of the USA, which is separate from and independent of the Boy Scouts, has not responded warmly to the Boy Scout announcement.
And its leaders point out that Girl Scouts also produces leaders.
Connie Chavez, chief external affairs officer for the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council, can rattle off a list of leaders who were Girl Scouts.
“Virtually every female astronaut who has flown in space was a Girl Scout,” Chavez said. “Every female Secretary of State was a Girl Scout. Eighty percent of female tech leaders were Girl Scouts, and 50 percent of female business leaders were Girl Scouts. And they got their start selling Girl Scout cookies.”
Chavez declined to comment about the Boy Scouts’ decision to admit girls.
“We don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about them,” Chavez said.
The Girl Scouts organization also has values it teaches its members: service, courage, confidence and character. And the top Girl Scout honor is the Gold Award, comparable to the Eagle Scout rank. Earning the Gold Award can lead to scholarships, college offers and the ability to enter the military one rank higher than others.
Danielle Thompson, student body president at Texas A&M University at Galveston, earned her Gold Award when she was a sophomore in high school. Her professional adviser recently reviewed her resume that listed her top achievements, Thompson said. At the bottom of the long list was her high school-era honor of getting the Gold Award.
Thompson’s adviser told her to move it to the top because it was her most impressive honor, even more impressive than being a college student body president, Thompson said.
“I always come across that,” she said. “I could credit almost every bit of confidence I have to the Girl Scouts.”
Thompson is studying maritime administration and plans to study admiralty law in the future.
It seems odd that the Boy Scouts would recruit girls to join them but keep the word “boy” in its name, said Elizabeth Gregory, director of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Houston.
“As a former Girl Scout mom of a girl who was also in coed Little League, I see no immediate benefits,” Gregory said. “The Girl Scouts have great camping facilities.”
Except for fathers who had been Boy Scouts and now have daughters, the market isn’t obvious to Gregory, she said.
“Is this an attempt to seem more ‘progressive’ to cover over their misstep with gay boys and leaders?” Gregory said. The Boy Scouts banned gay youth and openly gay leaders.
It’s possible the Boy Scouts of America is aiming to improve its image. If that’s true, it’s a good move, Moran said.
The Boy Scouts of America cites internal surveys it said it conducted online for its decision to admit girls.
It also cites a Pew Research Center study from 2015 that found most parents are working and more households only have one parent. The organization also said that because of that, convenient programs that serve the whole family are more appealing.
Both the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts are imports from the United Kingdom. It all started with the 1907 book, “Scouting for Boys.” Robert Baden-Powell wrote the book and founded the Boy Scouts.
“Girls were writing in asking how they could be Scouts,” said Tammy Proctor, a historian at the University of Utah who has researched those letters and other documents. She is author of “Scouting for Girls: A Century of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.”
Girls wanted the same sense of adventure and camping experiences, and the Girl Guides organization started in 1909 in the United Kingdom, Proctor said.
“It was created to keep girls out of Boy Scouts,” she said.
Girls might want to join Boy Scouts because it’s convenient, or they find it exciting, or their brothers are doing it, she said.
“In practice, it will be interesting to see how that plays out,” Proctor said.