Girl Scout executive discusses history, change and controversy of organization

Mar 05, 2012

This month will mark the Girl Scouts' 100th birthday. Post reporter Monica Hesse writes:

"Girl Scouts are often reduced to their cookies in ways that Boy Scouts are never reduced to their popcorn. The Girl Scouts must walk the tightrope of being too old-fashioned for some and too progressive for others. Debates and discussions have less to do with what a troop is doing in Colorado and more with the bigger things we are always discussing, the issues we are always worrying about: What do we want our girls to be? How will they affect the nation they will inherit?"

Chat with Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital (GSCNC) Lidia Soto Harmon about the organization's history, changes over the past century, current mission and the recent controversy Girl Scouts of America.

Submit questions, comments and opinions for Lidia to respond to now.

Read: Girl Scouts? 100th birthday: Charting a century of change in American girlhood

What a wonderful time to be a Girl Scout. As we celebrate 100 years of helping girls reach their highest potential - we look forward to the future with our goal to inspire the next generation of leaders. I look forward to your questions. 

It seems a lot of people think that Girl Scouts is just about crafts and cookies (and maybe camping). What is Girl Scouts doing today to be relevant to girls and to advance the position of girls and women in society?

It is all about the girls.  That means that girls are the ones deciding what they want to do.  This makes us relevant.  Girls are learning about STEM, about how to serve their community, how to be active citizens.    Girl Scouts has changed as girls' needs have changed.  Leadership is the essential ingredient to our success.  Oh...and we can't forget that it has to be fun too.  Withouth fun we don't learn and we don't build girls who are well rounded and ready to take on the world!

What is the average age of Girl Scouts in our area? Has the number of Teen Girl Scouts increased or decreased in the past 10 years? Do you think the change in Girl Scout programming will bring back girls that may have been part of Girl Scouting when they were younger?

We have Girl Scouts from Kindergarten to 12 grade that participate.  We actually 63,000 strong in just the Greater Washington Area (Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia and the District of Columbia).  Our strongest membership group is the elementary age, but we have seen a trend that girls who stay in Girl Scouting through their middle and highschool year, fare really well in the college application process.  They have done a ton of community service  and leadership development that sets them apart from their peers.

How has GSCNC embraced the changing demographics of the Washington region? Have there been recruitment challenges for membership?

We are an organization for ALL girls.  We have been working hard to bring programming to underserved communities and girls of all backgrounds.  We are proudest of our signature conferences: Encuentro de Chicas Latinas focuses on Latina teen who are not currently Girl Scouts.  Your Turn to Lead brings girls from the District of Columbia and Prince Georges' County to Howard University.  Keys to Leadershp reaches girls of all abilities in an inclusive setting.  We are also very active in various faith communities.

What can we expect from Girl Scouts in the next 100 years?

How much does the troop doing the selling earn from each box of the $3.50 cookies? - Post commenter caseyb1

WE love the Girl Scout cookies.  The cookies in our region sell for $4.oo a box and all proceeds stay in our community.  The troops earn about  seventy cents per box.  Last year they earned three million dollars locally to help do good works in the community and fund their activities.  The council also receives funds to maintain our camps, create innovative programs, and of course pay the baker.  My favorite cookie is still the Thin Mint!

This upcoming weekend is Girl Scout Sunday with Girl Scout Sabbath the following Saturday, bookending Girl Scout week. Around the US, it seems that Girl Scout Councils (like Virginia Skyline, Kentucky, etc) are noting the 100th anniversary by providing statements (inserts) and worship covers for use by religious institutions. Is GSCNC also providing this kind of material for use in this area?

Great idea.  We are working on having a template flyer on our website to help promote our newest religious award the My Promise My Faith, which eahc girl works directly with their faith community to fulfill the requirements.  We are having a great event to celebrate all faiths on April 28th at the National Cathedral.  If you are interested you can get on the waitlist.   ( Thank you for your question.

How are Girl Scouts updating leadership and learning opportunities for girls for its Centennial year?

GSUSA, the national organization, has spent a lot of time working on new materials called Journeys.  They have been tested with girls and they provide wonderful information on leadership, the environment and self-esteem.  Everything we used the Girl Scout Leadership Experience, discover, connect and take action.   

How is Girl Scouts handling the recent controversy - like the people who think the organization is teaching girls how to become hard core feminists?

We stand by our mission: empowering all girls to be leaders.   This is after all the Year of Girl!

You mentioned STEM in your first answer...what is STEM?

STEM means Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  Girl Scouts believes that we need to build a pipiline to careers in these fields.  And it is through the various fun activities girls become interested in the sciences.  After all, virtually every woman who has flown in outspace was a Girl Scout!

How do you recruit volunteers? What does it take to be a Girl Scout leader?

We love caring adults.  You do not have to be parent, you just need to love working with young people.  We have rigorous process to ensure that all adult volunteers have the skills and trianing to serve our girls.  If you are interested please contact us at 1 800 523-7898.  We are always looking for great people. 

Can you tell us a little bit about the June Rock the Mall celebration? Where are participants coming from? How many are you expecting? What are some of the fun events to help celebrate 100 years of Girl Scouting?

Oh my!  Are we excited.  We are expecting 200,000 friends to come to the National Mall.  We have virtually every state represented, and alumnae from around the world attending.  If you want to come please register at  There is a cool tshirt and patch you get for only 10 dollars.  Oh...and we are looking for a star who can sing a new original Girl Scout song.  If you are a registered Girl Scout you can enter the K12 "I want to rock the mall" You Tube contest.  It is going to be so much fun.  Get ready to Sing Along!!!!

Does Girl Scouts have an alumni association? How do current Girl Scouts know if an adult has been involved in Girl Scouting? Is there a way that they can reach out to these Alumni in fields of their interest when they are working on their Gold, Silver or Journey Take Action projects?

We have a great ways that alumnae can connect.  We have the Pixie List which is our Girl Scout classified so if you have an talent you want to share.  Look for Girl Scouts Nation's Capital on Facebook and start following us.  We have lots of fun activities for alumni.  Even campfires with s'mores..yumm!!

Can you talk a little bit about the diversity of what Girl Scout summer camps offer (sleep away/day)? Do you have a favorite theme?

Our sleep away campos are the best in the region.  We have over 4000 girls who participate.  The themes are everything under the sun, from camping, to high adventure, to cooking leasons, to spa days.  There is a camp for every girl.  I even go camping for one week every summer at Camp CEO.  So much fun!

What role do/ can parents have in girl scouts? How can parents help?

We need parents to be involved.  We have so many roles.  We need parents to help with cookies, to help with program delivery, to be money managers, to go camping.  The most rewarding role a parent can do in Girl Scouting is to be a troop leader.  We even have some parents to continue to lead troops after their girls graduate from highschool.  If it wasn't for the amazing adults we could not do all the cool things girls need.

What is the connection, if any, of the Girl Scout organization with Planned Parenthood and why has this controversy continued to be in the news?

Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital and Girl Scouts of the USA does NOT have a relationship with Planned Parenthood.  We do not take a posiiton on issues of human sexuality.  These issues are best discussed by girls with their parents and guardians.  We will continue to tell the truth and know that in the end our great works speak for themselves. 

How do I find the Pixie List you mentioned? Can a business offer a fun event on it, or is it only for people registered with Girl Scouts that can post on it? Is it like Craigs list?

You can reachthe Pixie list by typing:


It is a great resource for young adults, retirees or anyone in connecting with Girl Scouts.   If you are vendor you can contact or you can post on the Pixie List.  You know we are all about making new friends.



This has been so much fun.  Remember that Girl Scouts is here for you.  It is cookie season, so please support our Girl Scouts.  If you want more information or want to get involved CALL US NOW!!! WE can be reached at 800 523 7898 or send us an email at

Happy Birthday Girl Scouts.  Thank you Washington Post.  You rock!

In This Chat
Lidia Soto Harmon
Lidia Soto-Harmon, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital (GSCNC) has a proven track record of success in the corporate, non-profit and government sectors. On August 25, 2010, she was appointed CEO for the Girl Scout Council, after serving six years as the organization's Chief Operating Officer (COO). GSCNC is the area's preeminent leadership organization for girls, serving 90,000 members, 62,000 girls ages 5-17. The council serves the Greater Washington Region, which includes the District of Columbia and 25 counties in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.
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