Inclusion in Girl Scouts
Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization. We respect, value, and embrace the differences of all of our members and the community around us.
We’re part of a wonderfully diverse sisterhood, like a quilt with thousands of different squares all stitched together. No two squares are exactly alike! Some of our differences you see, and some you don’t.
There are biological differences like sexual orientation, ethnicity, personality, gender, physical abilities, learning / thinking style, race, and age. Then there are cultural differences like education, language, nationality, religious beliefs, socioeconomic status, parental status, marital status, appearance, and more.
Diversity happens when you bring together people who have many different combinations of biological and cultural differences. And, like the quilt, all of those diverse characteristics come together to form our organization.
The role of adult leaders in Girl Scouts is to create an environment where all girls feel safe and welcome — which can feel different for each girl. Creating a safe environment isn’t something you do once; it has to be a continuous process of learning, listening, and engaging with girls and their families to understand what girls need.
What is my role as a Girl Scout leader to be inclusive?
- Create an environment that values and respects diversity.
- Model respectful ways to interact with all people. Girls learn by watching how adults interact with girls and other adults.
- Facilitate positive, healthy relationships by helping girls form friendships in their troop with many different girls — especially those who are different than them!
- Make sure all girls have the opportunity to fully engage in activities, and have access to opportunities and information. This may mean helping girls overcome barriers to participation, adjusting activities, or even changing how you communicate.
- A girl’s comfort and well-being should be prioritized above everything else. Before setting goals about badges, cookies, and trips, set goals about how you will work to foster a feeling of safety, support and fun for all girls.
I want to be inclusive. How do I make sure it happens in our troop?
- Foster a belief in your troop that everyone benefits from having a diverse group of girls, by helping the girls find commonalities and differences they appreciate. Team projects and games can help girls appreciate the strengths of their sister Girl Scouts!
- Get to know the girls and their families. Many troop leaders already know a few of the parents in their troop when they get started. It can be easy to stay in your comfort zone and only bond with the people you already know. Getting to know a girl’s family can make a girl feel special and help you learn more about that girl and how to help her succeed!
- Remember that all families are different, and keep that in mind when planning family events. Girls may have really engaged aunts or grandparents that should be included in important ceremonies and occasions.
- Advocate for girls. Sometimes a girl may need a little extra attention and support in order to get the same experience as other girls in the troop. Sometimes inclusion takes flexibility, creativity and advanced planning.
- Be mindful of your own bias and assumptions about other people. Everyone has bias and makes assumptions about others based on their own experiences. The key is to challenge your bias and assumptions. Don’t assume everyone has the same background or experiences.
- Be mindful of the differences that you can and can’t see.
- Be mindful of language. Don’t make generalized statements about groups or types of people and don’t refer to a person based on a particular characteristic like race, ability, education, socioeconomic status or religion.
- Be mindful that your “normal” isn’t everyone’s normal and be open to making adjustments to plans and activities.
- Pay attention to special holidays and cultural traditions that may conflict with troop plans or limit a girl’s participation.
- Ask for help if you need it. Parents are often great resources, and Girl Scout staff can help connect you to the resources or support you need. We are lucky to live in a diverse country, and that means we aren’t going to know and understand all differences! You will grow and learn along side the girls by welcoming a diverse group of girls into your troop.
Sometimes inclusion takes extra work! But remember, our mission is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character, to make the world a better place. By spending extra time on inclusion, you are not only building future leaders by including all girls, but you are showing girls how to be leaders.