The Boy Scouts, the 117-year-old exclusively male club, is now admitting girls. And the Girl Scouts are saying: Bring it. Though the New York-based organization has seen membership decline in recent years, it's still pushing a message of female empowerment at a time it says girls need it most.
"We're seeing this as potentially a truth-in-advertising issue," says Stewart Goodbody, senior external communications director of the Girl Scouts, noting that the Boy Scouts' brand messaging is confusing. "They're saying they're opening the doors up to girls, isn't it fabulous, but there's a blur. Are they keeping girls' needs top of mind? We've been doing this for over 100 years and, frankly, are the experts in the category."
To remain so, the Girl Scouts are doubling down on their marketing message, which rolled out days before the Boy Scouts' recent announcement. An internally-developed campaign, "G.I.R.L. Agenda Powered by Girl Scouts" kicked off Oct. 6 at an Ohio event that included the likes of Chelsea Clinton, Gabby Douglas and Barbara Pierce Bush. The organization is mobilizing girls through civic action meant to further their problem-solving skills for future endeavors, Goodbody says.
But it's an uphill battle, when the highest Girl Scouts achievement -- the Gold Award—is little known in comparison to the familiar Eagle Scout badge. The Girl Scouts currently have around 2.6 million members, and though membership has been on the wane, Goodbody says last year's decline was smaller than in other years.
By comparison, last year the Boy Scouts had 2.3 million youth members and Explorers, according the organization's 2016 annual report.
The organization is also jumping on social media trends where it can lend a voice. The recent "Me, Too" social campaign, in which girls and women vocalized their experience with sexual assault and harassment, was an opportunity for involvement. The Girl Scouts shared an article about what to do when girls are harassed. The post generated over 8,000 Twitter impressions and 1,900 Facebook reactions, a spokeswoman says. The nonprofit is also working with celebrities like actresses Lake Bell and Bryce Dallas Howard to involve younger girls.
In recent weeks, the Girl Scouts has also launched partnerships with NASA and the SETI Institute to better involve girls in STEM programs.
And boys are not on the agenda. "We're been an all-girls organization since inception—that is what we do best," says Goodbody. "We owe it to the girls to continue delivering a one-of-a-kind exceptional journey for them."
The Boy Scouts did not return a request for comment about any new girl-focused marketing the organization may be doing when it begins admitting girls next year.