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What I’ve Learned from Girls

So, I’ve been working with Girl Scouts now for about 6 months, heading up marketing for the Chicago area council and I’ve learned a lot! When you’re no longer “a girl” you forget about the drama, fun, pimples, periods and plans that go along with the “she-ness” of it all! I’ve had the chance to spend some time talking to girls, especially those in our Reality Check program that brings out what girls have to say. And they’re saying a lot.

Were our lives as busy as the girls’ of today? That’s my first lesson. These girls have WAY too much to do. Yes, we all expect homework and sports and music and, in these cases, Girl Scouts. But some of these have incredible COMMUTES to school each day. And JOBS. And SCIENCE PROJECTS. And LESSONS. I remember baby-sitting a lot – a good way to get Julius Caesar read. And I had guitar lessons, which were a waste of everyone’s time and money. And clubs – lots of clubs. But I don’t think I felt the pressure these girls feel now.

Lesson 2. They WANT to do it all. Girl-time is when she should have great big adventures, when she can try on everything and see what fits. Yesterday colleagues and I were in a webinar about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and how girls aren’t looking to careers in these fields. We were laughing how we were very interested in some of these topics – just not very good at them. (Ok – I was saying that!) Never did I imagine myself in a lab jacket or at a computer (despite they hadn’t been invented yet!) or as a field engineer. But we were never exposed to any of these opportunities. Now a girl may be participating in a Lego Robotics championship one day, acting in a school play the next and tutoring classmates on improving English on another day. It’s exciting to meet these girls who jump in to try it all – especially areas their Moms may never have considered. Back to Lesson #1. They choose to be busy when they can do so many cool things.

Lesson #3. Hail to the adults who invest in girls. It often doesn’t take much to spark a girl to passion. Or to show her there IS a way to change direction in her life. Conversations can make a huge difference in letting girls know there is value to what they have to say. Listening and offering options and opportunities can break through to a girl who might have tuned out family or teachers. Showing a girl a new skill – especially abstract tools like critical thinking and problem solving – can give a girl a new way to approach life. An investment can be an important dollar commitment to something like Girl Scouts to bring programming to girls who otherwise might not be able to afford experiences. Or it can be an investment in time – even just starting a conversation with the girl down the block about what her dreams might be for the future.

Lesson #4. What I learned as a girl was much more important than what I wore. Though I did have a fabulous wardrobe because my sister and I shared clothes. But I learned it was okay to express myself creatively in Mr. Amelio’s English class and to take risks in drama class. (But not Chemistry, as Mrs. Olson would agree.) It was inspiring to think differently in Civics and explore new territory in Geometry. And it was very satisfying to take on leadership roles in after school clubs and projects. Yes, and clothes from the covers of Seventeen didn’t hurt!

I encourage you to learn something from a girl this holiday season. Talk to them (even if that means pulling out their earbuds from their I-phone) and listen to what they have to say. And reflect on what’s the same and what’s different from your own girlhood. And what you learned as a girl and can learn from them now.

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