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A Message from our Board of Directors Chair for the Girl Scouts Heart of the South Annual Meeting

I’m Mary Kay Wegner, Chair of the Board of Directors, I am sorry that I’m unable to be there with you today as I am traveling for business.

I can only image what the energy is like in the room with all of you there. I hope today will be a day of learning, fun and you will leave with a feeling of how sweet it is to be a Girl Scout.

Today I want to talk about what’s ahead of us, our amazing opportunities that no other youth-serving organization has and finally wrap things up with where we are.

You can’t start any talk about Girl Scouts without going back to our founder, Juliette Gordon Low.

As I was thinking about today’s remarks, I really thought about this quote from her “The work of today is the history of tomorrow and we are its makers.” Think about the context of when she said that over 100 years ago.

The world was changing – it was moving from an agrarian society to an industrial society. Totally different ways of life. Everything was being changed. There was so much economic displacement. But she saw opportunity.

When the rest of the world wondered what was next – she knew. And she saw that an entirely different way of living was right before us.

She saw that opportunity and she wanted to make sure that, unlike history before, girls and women were going to be part of creating that history.

So, she seized that opportunity and, as society was changing, she made sure Girl Scouts was right there.

If you think about it, some of our first Girl Scout badges were the outdoors, but what were they also? They were STEM. We didn’t have the phrase back then, but think about it – carpentry, electrician – they were things that really made you interested and curious about that world that was being created right at that moment. The S in STEM is Science, which is nature and the great outdoors.

When she formed Girl Scouts, she realized that these weren’t badges that would be set in stone. These would be badges that would be constantly changing. They were about constantly learning. So, she created an organization that is constantly learning and taught our girls to be lifelong learners.

Look at our results for our alumnae. We really were a force in the 20th century. Half of all female elected officials, all but one of the elected female governors, 75% of the US female senators, all three female Secretaries of State and almost every female astronaut that has gone to space were Girl Scouts.

Right now, we are living in a moment where again everything is changing from an industrial economy to an information economy. For a lot of people that can be scary.

Look at the horse and buggy at the time when cars first came out. People saw a car and thought “Well, I guess it replaces a tractor. I guess it will take me to town.” Never fully understanding what it meant. How it changed the way families lived and worked.

It even changed the way we vacationed, it changed the entire business. It changed so much of the way we live, work and play.

Back then, who could have imagined where we are today. A time when cars sometimes are driving themselves. That would have been almost incomprehensible.

And right now, we are at that moment when the new fuel of he economy is data. So how are we going to make this? Well, what is in everyone’s pocket? (Take out cell phone.) This is how the new opportunities are being created.

At this initial stage, a lot of things seem almost scary. And right now, we’re at a point where, in the next few years, EVERYTHING is going to be redesigned.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Alexa, a device that helps with search engine operation. A piece of technology that is always on and always listening. Health monitor app on your phone and even the ear buds that you use with your phone.

Think about it. It knows when you are not home. It knows when your kids are home alone. It knows when you are home alone. It makes finding information, songs and so much more available at the sound of your voice. What a piece of technology this has become, and the future it beacons for us.

Just like when Juliette started Girl Scouts, the world was about to be redesigned. We are now living in an era – over the next four to five years – when everything is being redesigned.

All across America, Mayors, community leaders, business leaders, CEOs  - this is the question they’re asking. Who’s going to build that world? Who is going to be the workforce of tomorrow? Who is going to code? Who is going to do robotics? Who is going to compile the data, so it is secure and safe?

What I like to say is, Girl Scouts has a badge for that! If you think about a sensor that is in everything from our refrigerators to our phones to our cars – everything we touch – what are those sensors? Robotics.

We’ve got Robotics badges for girls who are as young as Daisy’s all the way to High School Ambassadors.

Think about it in terms of the weather. We are all confounded by the quick weather changes. All Over the Country. Look at what Girl Scouts has been through during this past membership season. It was one extreme weather wave after another.

This caused many Girl Scouts to ask “What are we doing about this? How can I begin to understand what’s happening?” Well guess what – Girl Scouts has a badge for that!

Enabling girls to answer these questions is one reason I’m excited about all the new STEM badges and the new Imagine Center at Girl Scouts Heart of the South. This center will help our girls think analytically, to think outside of the box. STEM will show our girls how to discover the joy and wonder of the world.

Just like the time of Juliette Gordon Low, the world is about to be recreated. And what are we doing? We are preparing our girls to be fearless. We are preparing our girls to be the creators of this future.

They are going to be designers of the future. When I think about what we are doing in Girl Scouts, what we are offering to communities throughout the Mid-South, I get so excited. I am thrilled when people come up to me and say, “This is what I want for my daughter. This is what I want for my family.”

I’m excited about where we are in Girl Scouts. Because what we are doing is preparing the next generation of girls who will create our mutual future.

I’m sure you are asking “Where are we?” Of course, you all know the 3Ms – membership, money and Movement. So let’s talk about membership and living our mission.

Nationwide, Girl Scouts membership numbers are declining. Luckily that is no longer happening here at Heart of the South.

Our outcomes are amazing. The longer a girl is a Girl Scout, the better her life trajectory is.

I think about how it changes girls’ lives and changes their communities. So, over the course of the Volunteer Leadership Summit, I want you all to really be working on this issue. What bottlenecks can we get out of the way? How do we get that sense of urgency, that within 24 hours of someone expressing an interest, they are on the Girl Scout roll?

Right now, we have a competitor who is actively going after our girls. They aren’t looking to add other girls who aren’t Girl Scouts. They are coming after our girls.

And sometimes that’s hard for us, because it’s a partner that we’ve worked well with over the years. But lately things have been changing.

What we know is they’re after our girls, they’re after our membership, and they’re after our money.

We cannot underestimate this in any shape or form. Please realize that they’ve got a plan to go after Girl Scouts. It may feel for you that it’s episodic. Like “Oh I have a volunteer who said she’s going to register as a Girl Scout and as a Boy Scout as well, and do the cookie program, get the cookie cash and use it for Boy Scouts.”

The answer to that is NO. It is NO.

This is by no means just local or personal. It is being experienced across the country from California to Florida, from Vermont to Hawaii.

I have this image in mind. We have 114 doors in our Movement. We have 112 councils, USA Girl Scouts Overseas, and Girl Scouts of the USA. At any moment they can try to come in. And we must stand tall, stand together, because they are going to come knocking on every door.

Large councils, small councils, come to corporate, overseas. And what we must stand firm on is that there’s only one Girl Scout experience. We have an amazing brand and they want that glow and they want our girls and they want our organization.

What do I say to that? No. Not at all.

I know some of you are going to come to me and say, “But we’ve always done things this way, let’s not upset tradition.” What I say to that is that when people show you who they are, believe them.

We must take uncomfortable actions to protect our movement and our girls. So, we have to take that stand in our communities. But to me what’s exciting is where it all comes together and how many assets we have. Our future is bright. Look what we’ve done.

We’ve got the #2 brand in the world. That’s one of the reasons they want to cozy up and take pictures with you. Because they want some of our shine on them.

Our interests align with community and business leaders interest to invest in our properties, to modernize them, to prepare them for girls to have the experiences to develop their potential to thrive in the 21st century.

That is super exciting.

Our iconic cookie program, that is something we must really protect. We must make sure that only Girl Scouts in Girl Scout uniforms are selling our cookies. We must be very careful on that.

We have our amazing volunteers, our program, our digital reach, and our alumnae. We have so much. Think about where we are.

We now have a program with LinkedIn where our alums from across the world are going to be able to put “Proud Girl Scout” on their profile. We are going to be able to link our millions of alumnae, and thanks to a partnership with Salesforce, we will be able to get their data and download it. Councils around the country will be able to say “I see one of our Girl Scouts is working for this big corporation. I’m going to give her a call and remind her of her Girl Scout roots.”

So now putting this all together, think about this. Our businesses, what kind of employees do they want? They want employees who are continuous learners. Employees who are constantly learning how to re-learn, how to keep their skills sharp. Doesn’t that sound a lot like what we do at Girl Scouts? They’re looking for Girl Scouts.

Your mayors, your community leaders, your superintendents, what are they looking for? The workforce of the future. They’re looking for that pipeline. They’re looking for the leaders that are creating that pipeline, the ones who are developing that. That is what they really want now.

I want everyone to stand up. Look around the room at the great opportunity that we have, and I want you to think not about what stands in front of you but who stands right here beside you.

I’m so excited about our opportunity at Girl Scouts. Please join with me and let’s work to make the future for our girls the brightest it’s ever been.

I’ve had parents come to me and say, “You know what gives my daughter hope, and me as her parent hope? It’s the leadership skills she’s learning at Girl Scouts and the hand-on skills she is learning.”

That is what we offer communities, that is what we offer our girls, we offer them that leg up on life. So, I want to thank you, let’s put our shoulders to the wheel, we can do this.