Monday, December 14, 2009

Girls Care About Leadership

Girls care about leadership and girls’ definition of leadership changes as they age. By knowing how girls define leadership, we can help guide them in more successful development.

The Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI) focus groups revealed that as girls grow and develop new skills and ideas about the world, leading moves from a more singular approach with elementary school age girls (girls lead with action—what I can do) to influencing others at the middle school level (girls lead with voice—how I can impact others). As girls enter high school their ideas about leadership become inner-directed again with an emphasis on confidence (girls lead with vision—who I am as a leader) as they seek to validate their own ideas and become comfortable acting on them (GSRI, 2006, p.19). The GSRI included in their report that there are two major approaches to leadership development in girls’ programming:
  • The individual (i.e., “being in charge”) and
  • The collective (collaborative activity)
The GSRI report also included research by the Ms. Foundation for Women in regards to the two approaches. The Ms. Foundation for Women (2000) research with girls in community-based organizations (part of the Collaborative Fund for Healthy Girls/Healthy Women Initiative) acknowledges the need for both approaches in working with girls. One approach does not exclude the other and each can emphasize a different aspect of a girl’s experience. The Ms. Foundation (2000) research identified three strategies that reflect aspects of the individual and collective approaches:
  • Leadership through Voice and Culture - Building girls’ ability to use their voices in celebrating their culture
  • Leadership through Social Action/Change - Community change that affects the environments girls participate in
  • Leadership through Traditional Achievement - Building girls’ competencies, skills and qualities so that they can advance in the world
These strategies suggest that programs that encourage girls to be engaged in the community by acting as agents of change may also enable girls to internalize individual qualities and assets that they can use for their own benefit in the future (GSRI, 2006, p.21). By exercising their voices on issues they care about and taking action in the community, girls are exercising their personal power and amassing skill sets that enrich their individual competencies (Ms. Foundation for Women, 2000). These explanations are among the many reasons why the Girl Scout Journeys and Discover, Connect, Take Action model are utilized to grow girl leaders.

Resource: Girl Scout Research Institute (2006). Unpublished Pilot Survey Results on Girls and Leadership. NewYork: Girl Scouts of the USA.

 -CJ Harris

Carlena "CJ" Harris joined IBM in June 1997 and has held various roles within the IBM Software Group division. She has eight years of experience leading and managing virtual teams. Currently, she is a Global IT Program Manager. She holds degrees from University of Houston (Information Systems Technology, BS) and St. Edward's University (Organizational Leadership & Ethics, MS). CJ volunteers as a motivational speaker and life/career coach. She is also a wife, mother of two, coach, mentor and an aspiring writer.

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