The secret of their success: “Girls empowerment” weekend shows off council’s ability to recruit young women

A photo of a chalkboard with the words "Girls Rule"

Back in February 2019, the Verdugo Hills Council’s efforts to recruit girls to the Scouts BSA program was off to a modest start, with only a handful of members officially registered.

Five years later, it’s safe to say that things have changed: Young women now make up nearly 25% of the council’s entire membership.

All that success culminated in the Girl Led Girl Empowered Scouting Weekend, held at Camp Verdugo Oaks not coincidentally during Women’s History Month.

“We wanted to create a space for adult leader networking, friendly competition and building camaraderie,” says event co-director Amalia Hernandez.

The key to their growth? Outside of standard recruiting efforts, it’s mostly word of mouth: Girls have fun in Scouts BSA; they tell other girls about it; those other girls join; they have fun, too; the cycle continues.

Photo of a Scouts BSA member holding up her shooting sports target

Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate

Girl Led Girl Empowered Scouting Weekend featured patrol competitions, cooking competitions, campfire program, cracker barrel, and much, much more. In addition to registered female youth, the event was open to moms, dads, grandparents and sisters.

“I knew it was a success when we finished our campfire program and returned to the lodge for cracker barrel, got in a big circle, and began belting Taylor Swift songs at the top of our lungs,” says Scouts BSA youth Isabel Campos, who served as senior patrol leader for the weekend. “It was so much fun, and I’m so excited to keep in touch with all the other girls I met this weekend.”

That’s another key to their success. When the first class of young women joined Scouts BSA, they didn’t have any older, more experienced female Scouts BSA members to look up to. All that has now changed, as the Girl Led Girl Empowered Scouting Weekend gave new recruits the chance to learn from the veterans.

They’re just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake

In addition to the fun, games and character-building exercises, the event also included an adult session devoted to brainstorming.

“We had around 30 parents of female Scouts, many of whom were relatively new,” says co-director Dorothy Nguyen-Graff. “The goal was to understand what questions parents have about the Scouting program and girls’ participation in it, to prime them to want to participate as leaders — especially female leaders, as that has been one of the identified challenges — as well as to determine what challenges being faced specifically by girl units can be addressed moving forward.”

Topics discussed included how to get boys on board to help recruit girls, the importance of female troops joining together for events like this and, of course, the importance of spreading the word one girl at a time that girls are welcome in Scouting.

“It can be tough for many of these girls to participate in broader events if they don’t have a buddy or a female adult leader willing to step up,” says Hernandez. “We wanted to make sure the girls have access to the same events and activities the boys have historically had.”

Thanks to Verdugo Hills Council Scout Executive Laura Clay for submitting the photos and content for this story.

About Aaron Derr 457 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.