by Thomas Wailgum

Education – Selling Girl Scouts on Science

Jun 15, 20042 mins

Women make up 46 percent of the U.S. workforce, but only 22 percent of scientists and engineers, according to the National Science Foundation. The Girl Scouts are working with corporate and government agencies to change that.

“There has always been an interest at the Girl Scouts in making sure that girls have good skills and abilities, and technology is what girls need to understand,” says Marcia Balestrino, CIO of the Girl Scouts of the USA, which has 315 local councils.

Balestrino says that girls are interested in technology, but they use it differently than boys do. A 1998 book studied by the Girl Scouts (Girl Games and Technological Desire by Cornelia Brunner, Dorothy Bennett and Margaret Honey) notes that while boys look online for entertainment, girls spend more of their online time socializing.

Lockheed Martin, Lucent Technologies, Intel and NASA distribute educational materials and career information on topics such as archaeology, meteorology, engineering and design to the local Girl Scout groups.

“By the time they’re 11 or 12, girls go away from [science and technology] being a career. Girls think of [people with] technology careers as nerds with pocket protectors,” says Balestrino, who is a former Girl Scout. “Part of the initiative is to let girls know that there are all kinds of things they can do with a technology career.”

Girl Scouts can earn technology-related badges, including the Point, Click, Go badge, for learning how to use the Internet, as well as more advanced badges for doing project-related Internet searches.

This is important, Balestrino says. A 2002 survey conducted by the Girl Scouts found that parents often dictate rules for online safety (no online chatting or romance, for example). So girls need positive encouragement on using the Internet safely.

“Girls aren’t given a lot of information on how to use the Internet,” says Balestrino. “Most of it is how not to use it.”