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Girl Scout Techies

Published: July 27, 2017

Girl scouts playing a game

Jack and Jill magazine, 1945

The Girl Scouts of the USA is upgrading its offering of badges. After more than 100 years of teaching respect, loyalty, and honesty, the program is ready to build robots.  

Fifteen new badges that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) will have the next generation of Cadettes blogging and coding and new Brownies building spring-powered machines.  

Sylvia Acevedo, the new CEO of GSUSA, was a Girl Scout herself before working as an engineer for NASA and later for IBM and Dell. She believes the recent badge rollout — the largest in almost a decade — will familiarize more girls with science and mathematics fields and afford them confidence to pursue skills and careers in male-dominated spheres.  

According to a 2009 study from the U.S. Department of Commerce, American women made up 48 percent of the workforce but only 24 percent of STEM jobs. When it comes to computer sciences specifically, the gap is worse: only 18 percent of all undergraduate degrees in computer and information sciences are going to women.  

Despite the dismal odds, trailblazing women like Sally Ride and Mary Cleave have demonstrated where studies in STEM can land them: into space. The Post’s 1982 article “Make Way for the Ladies in Space” profiled them among other female scientists before Ride’s historic flight aboard the space shuttle Challenger. “With Sally Ride’s April ascent into space, it will become apparent that — potentially, at least — space travel is for everyone,” the report concluded.  

Each of the women expressed their own challenges with getting ahead in a man’s world: seemingly small, constant slights and snubs that add up over time. “‘We do the same work as our male colleagues,’ explains Shannon Lucid, biochemist from Oklahoma, ‘yet nobody asks them about their families, or how their kids feel about their work.’”  

Mary Cleave noted the unorthodox nature of her interest in aviation when discussing her childhood idol, John Glenn: “Here’s this little girl looking at a strong, crew-cut pilot and saying, ‘I want to be just like him!’ I think my parents would’ve taken me straight to a psychologist!” In the same scenario nowadays, a new solution arises: Parents can take their little dreamers straight to the Girl Scouts.  

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