Boy Scouts Are Dropping The Word 'Boy' From Flagship Program; Girl Scouts Shrug
The Boy Scouts of America doubled down Wednesday on its quest to become the scouting organization of choice for boys and girls, announcing it will drop "Boy" from the name of its signature program.
But the decision didn't impress the Girl Scout organization, which noted no new, "girl specific" programming.
“Girl Scouts is the premier leadership development organization for girls,” Sylvia Acevedo, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, said in a statement. “We are, and will remain, the first choice for girls and parents."
Both groups, which have been at odds since the Boy Scouts decided to open its doors to girls, have been struggling with declining membership.
The umbrella organization will retain its name, Boy Scouts of America or BSA. The term Cub Scouts, for kids 7-10 years old, is gender neutral and also will go unchanged. Boy Scouts, which includes kids from 10 to 17, will become Scouts BSA in February.
Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh unveiled the group's "Scout Me In" marketing campaign aimed at promoting inclusiveness. “As we enter a new era for our organization, it is important that all youth can see themselves in Scouting in every way possible," Surbaugh said.
Change has been coming quickly to the iconic if shrinking organization. In October, it announced it would provide programs for girls. Several months before that, the group announced it would accept and register transgender youths into its organization.
In 2015, it ended its ban on gay leaders.
Cub Scouts will formally accept girls starting this summer. Surbaugh said more than 3,000 girls nationwide already enrolled in the BSA’s Early Adopter Program and are participating in Cub Scouts before the full launch.
Allowing girls into the organization allows busy families to consolidate programs for their kids, BSA says. Most of the actual Cub packs and Scout troops, however, will be single gender. Girls and boys can work toward the prestigious title of Eagle Scout.
“Cub Scouts is a lot of fun, and now it’s available to all kids,” said Stephen Medlicott, BSA marketing director. “That’s why we love ‘Scout Me In’ — because it speaks to girls and boys and tells them, ‘This is for you. We want you to join!’ ”
Boy Scouts of America claims almost 2.3 million members, down from 2.6 million five years ago. That includes Venturing and Sea Scouting programs, the latter allowing membership up to 21 years of age. In its peak years, BSA had more than 4 million participants.
Adults play a major role in the program: Almost 1 million adult volunteers serve as the backbone of the organization.
It's too early to determine what impact the aggressive BSA effort to recruit girls will have on the Girl Scouts, an organization best known for its lucrative annual cookie sales. The organization, founded two years after Boy Scouts, currently claims a membership of about 1.8 million.
The Girl Scouts list a series of efforts designed to "stay ahead of the pack of youth organizations." That includes 23 new merit badges focusing on outdoors and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). And last month, the organization unveiled a LinkedIn network aimed tapping a major resource — the group's 50 million alums.
The goal of the network is "to support female advancement in the workforce and help prepare girls for a lifetime of leadership and career success."
Still, the impact of the BSA effort is being felt. One regional leader, Fiona Cummings of Girl Scouts of Northern Illinois, told the Associated Press the BSA’s decision to admit girls is among the factors that have shrunk her council’s youth membership by more than 500 girls so far this year.
She said relations with the Boy Scouts in her region used to be collaborative and now are “very chilly.”
“How do you manage these strategic tensions?” she asked. “We both need to increase our membership numbers.”