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How Girl Scouts Encourages Girls To Pursue Careers In Science

The new Girl Scouts CEO Sylvia Acevedo comes to the organization from a background in technology, and she’s introducing new achievement badges and other incentives to encourage girls to discover and pursue careers in science and technology.

In a View From The Top conversation, Acevedo ( @SylviaAcevedo) talks with Here & Now‘s Robin Young about her efforts.

Interview Highlights

On how her Girl Scouts experience shaped her career path

“One of the reasons I became an engineer and a rocket scientist is directly attributable to my Girl Scout experience. You know, my troop leader saw me looking at the stars one night during an outdoor adventure and she taught me that there were constellations and encouraged me to earn my science badge. Later on, I took math and science at a time when girls like me weren’t taking those math and science electives, and I had confidence in that when people told me I couldn’t be an engineer. I earned my science badge making Estes rocket kits, so it was such a great feeling and a thrill for me to get my job at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs and to be working as a rocket scientist.”

On her Mexican heritage and how Girl Scouts helped her family adjust to the U.S.

“My dad was born in the United States, and my mom was born in Mexico. I lived in a predominantly Spanish-speaking neighborhood at first, and then we moved into a different neighborhood. At that time we spoke Spanish at home, and so Girl Scouts really gave me the opportunity to understand a lot more about the world around me and in the U.S. And it wasn’t just for me, it was also for my mom… my troop leaders really befriended my mother, helping her to support Girl Scouting, helping her learn English and then also helping her earn her American citizenship.”

On activities the new badges represent

“These badges are everything from programming rockets, to building model race cars, to writing code, to having outdoor adventures. These are things that girls want. Our badges are everything from daisies, which is kindergarten, all the way to high school and 12th grade.”

On encouraging girls to pursue cybersecurity jobs

“Now more than ever we need to have more girls join cybersecurity ranks. There is a yawning skills gap in that area and we’re stepping up. We almost see this as a patriotic duty to make sure that we have girls that have the interest, the courage, the confidence to be able to pursue those types of jobs.”

On the Girl Scouts’ partnership with Palo Alto Networks, a Silicon Valley cybersecurity firm

“We’re really excited about this opportunity because they need to have more trained experts in cybersecurity. And Girl Scouts we have, from our very beginning, we’ve always had an experience in creating the STEM pipeline. So if you think of many of the female astronauts, they were Girl Scouts. You know, many of the STEM technology leaders, they were Girl Scouts. Now what we’re doing with Palo Alto Networks is we’re expanding that pipeline. Our goal is to have over 5 million girls filling that STEM pipeline in the next few years.”

On President Trump’s speech Monday at the Boy Scouts National Jamboree

“We are two completely different organizations. The Boy Scouts are a separate organization; we’re a completely different organization and we are focused every day on creating girls of courage, confidence and character to make the world a better place. We are totally dedicated to create the best leadership experience for girls in America in a nonpartisan way. That’s our focus.”

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

In this July 21, 2017 photo, a Girl Scout badge for learning how to program a robot is seen atop a sample of new badges focused on science, technology, engineering and math in Owings Mills, Md. (Patrick Semansky/AP)
In this July 21, 2017 photo, a Girl Scout badge for learning how to program a robot is seen atop a sample of new badges focused on science, technology, engineering and math in Owings Mills, Md. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

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