Come January, there will be an unprecedented force of female representation taking hold in Washington. At least 110 women will serve in the U.S. House and Senate next year, accounting for 20 percent of all seats in Congress. And at least 60 percent of them are former Girl Scouts.
Girl Scouts of the USA has fostered young female empowerment and leadership since 1912. In a male-dominated world where women are likely to be surrounded by men in every other activity, Girl Scouts offers a comfortable space for girls that empowers them, cultivates their leadership potential and helps build their confidence.
“Most of a girl’s life is co-ed, so it’s important to offer girls-only spaces,” Alice Hockenbury, Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy for GSUSA told Ms. “Girl Scouts is a formative experience for a girl to have while growing up, and it’s not a coincidence that the majority of elected Congresswomen are Girl Scout alums.”
Cassandra Levesque, who was recently elected to represent the town of Barrington in the New Hampshire state legislature, is a proud Girl Scouts alumna, and credits those spaces to her success. “They helped show me growing up that I can be strong, I can be loud,” she told Ms. “I felt that I could be myself there.”
Levesque, 19, is set to be one of the top five youngest state legislators in U.S. history—all because of a girl scout project that earned her the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouts. As a senior in high school, she began to push for child marriage legislation in New Hampshire, that would raise the legal age for marriage to 18, from 13 for girls and 14 for boys. When the initial bill failed in the House, she reintroduced the bill the next year and, with the help of Representative Jackie Cilley, passed legislation raising the age to 16.
During her campaign, Levesque leveraged her youth and Girl Scout experience as assets to her potential seat in the New Hampshire House. “Girl Scouts taught me how to be an advocate and how to get my voice heard,” she told Ms. “I am very proud to say that I’m a Girl Scout.”
People ask me all the time what will Girl Scouts do for their daughter. I can't accurately answer that because anything is possible, all I can tell you is this is where my Girl Scouting took me! pic.twitter.com/R5UWIsGuPt
— Cassandra Levesque (@Cassandra4NH) November 12, 2018
In the current U.S. Congress, 51 percent of female Representatives and 73 percent of female Senators are Girl Scout alumnae. Today, four of six female governors were Girl Scouts. And Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton—the only three female Secretaries of State in history—were all Girl Scouts.
According to a recent study done by the Girl Scout Research Institute, Girl Scouts “are more likely than non-Girl Scouts to act ethically and responsibly, seek challenges and learn from setbacks, identify and solve problems in their communities and take an active role in decision making.” These are all qualities to be valued in elected officials—and will hopefully make a difference in Congress as more Girl Scout alumnae seek office.
“At Girl Scouts, we believe every girl’s voice should be heard,” Hockenbury told Ms., “and likewise, it’s important to have women in decision-making roles in every sector of society.”
The 116th Congress will have even more alumnae of the program in its ranks. In the House, at least 57 percent of the women in the House will be Girl Scout alumnae, and at least 74 percent of the women in the Senate. All told, at least 60 percent of the women in Congress will be former Girl Scouts in 2019.
While not every female candidate promoted their Girl Scout backgrounds during the campaign like Cassandra Levesque, many of the most notable freshmen of the 116th Congress are alumnae. Jacky Rosen, the junior Senator from Nevada who won a race against an incumbent Republican in a tight race, is among this group. Veronica Escobar, Jahana Hayes, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley—a crew of boundary-breakers heading to the House—are Girl Scout alumnae who are making history as the first Latina to represent Texas, the first Black women to represent states in New England and the youngest Representative ever elected. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who will make history as the first Latina governor in New Mexico, was a Girl Scout.
It seems that as more women are elected to public office, the correlation between national leadership and Girl Scouts grows stronger—and with good reason. With every inauguration to come, it becomes more clear that Girl Scouts of the USA has upheld their mission to build girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place.