By Cathy Coughlin Senior Executive Vice President and Global Marketing Officer, AT&T Inc.
I feel energized, inspired and ready to tackle any challenge this morning. I’m surrounded by hundreds of the most ambitious young women on the planet at the 2014 Girl Scout Convention in Salt Lake City.
I was a Girl Scout myself growing up in St. Louis, so I know what it’s like to be in these young ladies’ shoes. They’re here to discover new things, make new friends and put their minds together to help solve problems. They’re here to prove how “Girls Change the World,” the theme of this year’s convention.
I’m proud to serve on the Girl Scouts Board of Directors, and I’m here today to help guide a group of more than 100 girls working on projects to help solve problems in education. Specifically, I’m talking with them about how they can use their collective brain power to get more girls to pursue degrees and careers in science, technology, engineering and math, the STEM fields.
For a variety of reasons, many girls lose interest in STEM when they hit their middle-school years. Is it peer pressure? Is it societal expectations? Are teachers and parents not sending the right signals? Who knows? It could be a number of things, but none of it makes any sense.
According to Girl Scout research, three out of every four girls say they’re interested in STEM. Why, then, isn’t that interest carrying over to their studies? Women hold only one in every four computer and math degrees and even fewer engineering degrees –one in every five! This is a problem.
We only get to the best answers when we have diverse points of view at the table. And, we need more women to participate in STEM, one of the fastest-growing and best-paying parts of the economy.
AT&T is working with the Girl Scouts to get more girls in STEM, through our signature education initiative, AT&T Aspire. Our company and our employees have invested our dollars in Girl Scout STEM programming and have contributed thousands of volunteer hours to encourage girls to pursue their interest in STEM.
The Girl Scouts I’m speaking with today are going to take what they’ve learned back home to their families, friends, schools and communities and spread the word that we need more girls in STEM. They’re going to shine a light on this problem like only they can.
They can make a difference and so can you. Talk about this with the girls in your life.
Discuss it with your friends and family. Share this videoacross your networks. Help us make a difference.
The Ebola epidemic in West Africa continues to spread. As of today (October 16th) the death toll has surpassed 4,500–including 236 health workers. The World Health Organization fears that the true tally is much higher due to under reporting, and projects that the number of cases could grow to 9,000 by next week, and a staggering 1.4 million come January 2015.
As cases have appeared in the United States, the Obama administration and the CDC are scrambling to re-examine policies and procedures for containing and treating the disease. The international community continues to seek solutions for providing aid in the hardest hit areas of West Africa, where needs are becoming increasingly dire. Meanwhile, public fear continues to grow while news reports speculate on the “what ifs” of a global health crisis.
A health worker’s personal protective gear is disinfected with chlorine solution in Sierra Leone (Photo credit: UN.org)
Fortunately, an Ebola epidemic in the developed world is highly unlikely. In countries with the infrastructure and technology to isolate and control the disease, as well as options for treating those who do become infected, there is little possibility that the disease will wreak havoc in the way it has in the developing countries of West Africa. There, under-equipped medical centers are overwhelmed by case loads, and are lacking in the necessary supplies and beds to treat infected persons. Adding an additional layer to the crisis are cultural and political issues, as mistrust of the government and lack of public health education–in addition to ritualistic burial practices–make it difficult to coordinate a controlled response to the growing outbreak.
So, what can we (the international community) do to help? Operation USA has a simple solution: Take action to help combat the further spread of Ebola by providing material aid support to those on the front lines battling the outbreak.
Pallets of personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies are prepped at the OpUSA warehouse for shipment to Liberia
A report released earlier this week by the Ministry of Social Health and Welfare in Liberia highlights the pressing need for in-kind donations from foreign partners. An inventory of needs versus supplies shows massive gaps in almost all categories, and calls for immediate support from donors. There is a serious need now more than ever for corporate and individual donors to step up and provide assistance in West Africa. Together, we can help bridge the gap and get supplies where they’re needed most.
- Body bags (80,000)
- Chlorine powder (98,000 kg)
- Plastic buckets (140,000)
- PPE suits – hooded overall (990,000)
- Examination gloves (2.4 million boxes)
- Face masks (1.4 million)
- Goggles (510,000)
- Heavy duty plastic gloves (590,000 pairs)
- Rubber boots (175,000 pairs)
- Hand sprayers (210,000)
- Backpack sprayers (4,800)
- Mattresses (3,200)
We have the power to step up and help stop the further spread of Ebola in West Africa, and to provide much needed supplies to those fighting the disease firsthand. Whether you give $5, $5,000 or in-kind materials, every donation makes a difference!
Venture Out! is for volunteers working with K-5 troops who have little or no experience taking girls outside. Never hiked in their life? Have lots of outdoor skills, but don’t know how to share them with girls? Venture Out! has ideas for both these groups…and everyone in between. Troop leaders of older girls may also find it useful.
The Girl Scout Research Institute recently conducted a national study about girls and the outdoors. The report, More Than S'mores: Successes and Surprises in Girl Scouts' Outdoor Experiences explores two basic questions: How and how much are girls getting outside in Girl Scouts? And what difference do these outdoor experiences make? Among key findings of the study are that girls' outdoor experiences in Girl Scouts are positively linked to their challenge seeking, problem solving, and environmental leadership. Additionally, when girls get outdoors on a monthly basis in Girl Scouts, doing even casual outdoor activities, they are much more likely to agree that they've learned to recognize their strengths, to do something they thought they couldn't do, and to gain skills that will help them do better in school.
Through Venture Out!, volunteers will gain the confidence to take more girls outside and practical knowledge from other volunteers about getting girls outdoors. Venture Out! is available from Girl Scouts University, and made possible by the Elliott Wildlife Values Project.
Morgan Serventi: Unleashing the Power of Poo!Age: 18Hometown: Paige, Arizona
Last year, Morgan left her hometown and embarked on a mission trip to Wamba, Kenya. In preparation for her adventure, she did some digging into the conflicts related to resource scarcity and energy use. In rural areas such as this one, firewood is burnt as a source of power. She found that scavenging for this wood is challenging and, a lot of the time, unfruitful for the women put to the task in many communities. On top of that, the practice results in deforestation, health problems, burn accidents, and food and water sanitation issues, and it also becomes the source of family conflict. Women are often beaten when they cannot provide enough wood for their families. Morgan decided this was the perfect challenge to tackle for her Gold Award project.
How Morgan Is Changing the World:
Luckily, Morgan arrived at an awesome, exciting, and slightly smelly solution. She discovered that methane gas can be produced and used as a source of energy using a manure digester. With livestock, the magic ingredient is not hard to find. The manure digester itself costs only ten dollars to build from recyclable materials and produces enough methane to power a stove burner. She found this to be an easy, sustainable, and efficient method of power generation. Morgan presented the design to her hometown of Page, Arizona, as well as the surrounding Navajo reservation before bringing it all the way to Wamba, Kenya.
Thanks to Morgan’s project, rural communities have a new method of generating energy, one that is free of the social costs that come with burning firewood. Her work has improved the everyday lives of countless individuals, especially women, while also contributing to global efforts to preserve the environment and its resources.
Morgan will study agriculture at the University of Arizona, where she will continue to lead the way in exploring viable alternative energy sources! Girl Scouts will honor Morgan and her fellow National Young Women of Distinction on Sunday, October 19 at our 2014 Girl Scout Convention.
"Badru’s Story," which documents the work of researchers in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, is the first-place winner of the Yale Environment 360 Video Contest. Filmmakers Benjamin Drummond and Sara Joy Steele trek along with scientist Badru Mugerwa and his team as they monitor the impact of climate change on one of Africa’s most diverse forests and its extraordinary wildlife.
Watch the video.
The membership drop mirrors similar declines throughout the nonprofit and youth-serving sectors, with organizations across the country experiencing the residual effects of the 2008 financial crisis, and its lingering impact on the time and resources both girls and parents have to give to Girl Scouts and other activities. The increased demand and competition from other organizations, school, and extracurricular activities for the attention of girls have also cut into the time girls commit to Girl Scouts.
Much of Girl Scouts’ membership decline over the past several years can be attributed to a lack of adult volunteers to lead troops and deliver programming. With 30,000 girls on waiting lists nationwide to join the Girl Scouts, it is clear girls’ interest in joining the organization remains high. Declining time and interest on the part of potential adult volunteers to serve as troop leaders, cookie moms, and in other capacities has led to a net decline in overall girl and adult membership, as many girls no longer have a local troop to join. The recruitment and training of qualified adults is a top priority for the organization, as a single volunteer can take as many as five girls off of a wait list and into a troop setting.
“We are aware of the national trends in the youth-serving nonprofit space, and are investing heavily in innovative technological upgrades that will take the Girl Scout experience fully into the twenty-first century,” said Anna Maria Chávez, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA. “As we head into our national convention this month, we are embracing new tactics, ideas, and strategies that will help us reach, recruit, and retain more girls and the adults who serve them. As we position Girl Scouts for its second century of service to girls, we are continuing to work to connect the organization to the fast-paced modern world, ensuring we deliver a unique leadership experience that is consistent with the needs of today’s girls while teaching the values and ideals our Movement has always upheld.”
More sophisticated social media campaigns and a first-ever online resource for volunteers, called the Volunteer Toolkit, are among the new tactics and strategies Girl Scouts of the USA has been investing in to assist in recruiting more adult volunteers. This fall Girl Scouts of the USA launched its first national Facebook ad campaign for the majority of Girl Scout councils. The campaign, which uses geo-targeted ads optimized for conversions, reached over nine million potential volunteers in the first month. The development of the Volunteer Toolkit is revolutionary for Girl Scouts of the USA, as it will ease the on-boarding process for new volunteers, and troop leaders will be able to plan an entire year of meetings and activities in one online visit. The mobile-friendly toolkit also provides easy access and constant support for on-the-go volunteers. The handful of councils currently piloting the toolkit have already seen a significant positive impact, greatly reducing the number of girls on waiting lists.
Though overall membership is down, the positive effect Girl Scouts has on girls continues to be indisputable. Studies from the Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI) show women who were Girl Scouts display positive life outcomes with regard to sense of self, community service, civic engagement, education, and income to a greater degree than women who were not Girl Scouts. And this is the case for all Girl Scout alumnae, across age/generations, social class, race, and engagement in other extracurricular activities. Results from a Girl Scouts of the USA summer 2014 pulse poll conducted with more than 3,500 volunteers and parents of Girl Scouts in the K−5 age range shows at least 90 percent of caregivers say their daughter is more confident, has more friends, and is happier because she’s in Girl Scouts, while 88 percent of volunteers believe their lives are better because they volunteer with Girl Scouts.
Additional GSRI data showcases the need for female leadership organizations in this country. Their 2013 report The State of Girls: Unfinished Business found that while progress has been made for girls in some areas such as educational attainment, many girls are being left behind. Particularly, African American and Hispanic girls face significant challenges in making successful transitions to adulthood. More recently, GSRI’s The State of Girls: Thriving or Surviving examines girls’ well-being across each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, ranking each state based on an index of girls’ well-being. Data like this showcases the significant need for organizations like Girl Scouts to work together with local communities to mobilize resources that address the most pressing issues impacting girls, especially those in underrepresented and vulnerable populations. Girl Scouts of the USA’s curriculum continues to be informed and shaped by research like this in order to best serve today’s girls.