Today’s Girl Scouts are forging new paths to community service and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers while meeting the unique challenges of COVID-19 with ingenuity and excitement about the future.
From sending cookies to coronavirus first responders and truckers on the road to printing 3D face masks and earning cybersecurity badges, the latest generation of Girl Scouts is all-in for the next phase of the organization’s digital journey.
In an exclusive SAPPHIRE NOW Unplugged conversation, Sylvia Acevedo, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, described how Girl Scouts have come together and become even stronger in applying technology and leadership development to fulfill the organization’s mission.
Here are highlights from Acevedo’s digital broadcast with Paula Hansen, chief revenue officer for SAP Customer Experience.
Adapting Quickly to Innovate Cookie Sales
After hearing about Acevedo’s extensive STEM background — which included work as a rocket scientist at NASA and positions as a technology executive and entrepreneur — it is easy to understand how she has channeled her passion for space, science, and math into valuable skill-building for girls. For example, in response to the pandemic, Girl Scouts brought its entire cookie sales operation online in just nine days.
“The iconic cookie program teaches amazing business skills, but you have to adapt to the way people work and live,” Acevedo said. “So that girls would be safe, we stopped all in-person cookie sales and pivoted to put in an entire online system together with partners using SAP software so that we could enable girls to sell their cookies all over the country. We called it ‘Girl Scouts Cookie Care.’”
Cybersecurity is Top Digital Priority
Girl Scouts has gone more digital, offering a host of program activities that revolve around STEM, entrepreneurship, the outdoors, and leadership. The initiative is called Girl Scouts at Home, but the objective is to open up a world of civic-minded leadership to girls who are eager to keep learning. With the spread of COVID-19 and subsequent focus on all things virtual, cybersecurity recently became a priority.
“We had almost 8,000 cybersecurity badges earned in March, so that tells us our programs are relevant and girls see real use of it,” Acevedo said. “One girl wrote to me saying that based on what she learned in our cybersecurity program, she immediately called her grandmother [who] had been frauded. She made sure that her grandmother put all the protections on her Wi-Fi system, computer, and phone so she wouldn’t be frauded again.”
Digital with a Human Touch
Going virtual has also helped bolster community spirit. Online troop meetings have increased because girls want to stay in touch with friends more, whether they’re creating tens of thousands of face masks — one troop is using 3D printing to churn these out — or going outside for shared constellation learning experiences.
“Girls are figuring out how they can still use their skills to make the world a better place,” she said. “They can still earn their space science badges, and it’s also a great way to connect with other girls.”
Encouraging Girls to Pursue STEM Careers
Chief among Acevedo’s goals was helping girls understand they were not just tech users, but also could be tech creators, designers, and inventors. Girl Scouts flipped STEM programming that has been historically designed to meet boy’s interests to meet the interests of girls today. Last year, Girl Scouts earned over 1 million STEM badges and 128,000 cybersecurity badges. Acevedo was particularly proud of how Girl Scouts as young as middle schoolers were developing Faraday shields to foil would-be car thieves.
“We redesigned the badges around what a girl is familiar with and interested in,” Acevedo explained. “Once they’re familiar with it, they’re interested. Once they’re interested, they’re confident. And once they’re confident, they’re competent. People ask, ‘How do you teach brownies, who are seven- and eight-year-old girls, protocols, networks, and malware?’ We meet them where they are.”
Building the Future Workforce
Acevedo said Girl Scouts is leading the largest national effort in the U.S. to teach girls 21st century skills. Gender equity is a major objective, reflected in the organization’s Fair Play, Equal Pay initiative that helps build a better future for girls in collaboration with companies like SAP.
“SAP was our very first partner in this,” she said. “It’s a signal to the 1.6 million girls in our organization that SAP is the kind of place they want to go work at. And, the kind of STEM experiences we’re developing are a great match for SAP because they have the workforce skills that are very much needed. I’m grateful for the leadership of SAP and what that says to their employees and the rising generation.”
One thing that has not changed is the taste of those delicious Girl Scout cookies. Thanks to the organization’s latest digital transformation, customers can stock up before the end of cookie season with just a few clicks. Enjoy!