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Girl Scouts’ CEO Has Major Credibility Problem That Threatens To Sink Girl Scouts

May 6, 2016

Girl Scouts CEO Anna Marie Chavez announced that she is raising the membership fee to join Girl Scouts, claiming that it’s necessary to advance more programs, while cutting funding to programs. I read the CEO’s comment about increasing membership fees, and it sounds like the majority of the price increase is going toward administrative fees.There is no mention of what exactly is being offered to the young women.

The first mention of the fees is for accident insurance, then research. Chavez posted this on her blog for Girl Scouts:

Every dollar of membership dues is sent to Girl Scouts of the USA to cover the cost of fundamental services supporting the Girl Scout Movement including: accident insurance for members participating in approved Girl Scout activities, research, resources, training, and services to councils.

Programs? No membership fee is going to support programs for actual Girl Scouts. Research into what, and how will it benefit the young women who register? I fully support leadership opportunities and training for young women; however, the message from the CEO is lacking in details.

When Chavez does mention programming, she is vague in determining exactly how this funding will impact local troops, just implying that increased membership fees will somehow trickle down to local troops, but there is no mention of how this money is going to be supposedly disbursed to increase operating capital for local members:

Nationally, we are building some amazing programs for girls in the areas of STEM, entrepreneurship, outdoor, and life skills. Locally, girls are empowered with the skills and entrepreneurial know-how to lead and succeed in the industries of tomorrow, as they tackle local and global issues of interest to them, such as poverty, illiteracy, and pollution. The additional funding provided by the upcoming membership fee increase will ensure this important programming endures and thrives.

Increasing  STEM involvement?  That’s a complicated endeavor that schools have struggled with for years, and Girl Scouts offers no clear plan for an idealistic sort of implementation.

What is the point in pushing girls into STEM fields, of which there are no methods proven to work in this way, if the girls don’t get the leadership training to be able to advance in their career?. Notice that the Girl Scouts’ CEO works out of Manhattan (whose real estate prices are insane and make me suspect a price increase related to rent costs that should be re-evaluated), and she doesn’t have a STEM background. Chavez has an undergrad degree in American history from Yale and then went to law school. No STEM background there.

Chavez acts like pushing a STEM program is an enticement to young women; however when I looked up college scholarships for Girl Scouts in Michigan, only one came up, and it was for an engineering scholarship. Chavez argues for promoting programs she has no background in promoting. There is no partnership with a reputable scientific program to offer advisement on implementing stem, just a broad declaration that some STEM initiatives are in the works, along with increased money going to insurance premiums, of course.

What is Chavez’s unique skill set that somehow makes her good at her job? According to Girl Scouts, it’s unclear, but she has worked in government positions. Notice her lack of any kind of STEM qualification that Chavez trumpets is her major thrust for reinvigorating Girl Scouts:

After completing her law degree, she served as legal counsel to the Federal Highway Administration in Washington D.C. She also served as an attorney advisor in the Office of the Counsel to the President. During her time in Washington, she served as public policy advisor to several offices including U.S Secretary of Transportation and the offices of Government Contracting, Size Standards, Technology, and Small Disadvantaged Business Certification and Eligibility.

Prior to joining the Girl Scouts organization, Chavez served as Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for then-Governor of Arizona, Janet Napolitano. From November 2003 to January 2007, she worked with city, state, tribal, and community organizations to promote the Governor’s policies and initiatives, eventually being appointed Deputy Chief of Staff.

In 2009, the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas appointed Chavez as CEO and in 2011 she was appointed CEO of Girls Scouts of the USA

Everyone knows that Federal Highway Commission chiefs are reputable STEM promoters and leaders of young women’s programs, or something similar. While the Federal Highway Commission lists approximately 50% of its drivers are female, nationwide, there is no indication that this work that Chavez initiated.

The multiple Chavez vagaries were also noted in an excerpt from the New York Post by Isabel Vincent, published in 2013 in the article about the Girl Scouts CEO and her seemingly unbelievable disconnect:

The hefty pay package comes despite her tenure being marked by staff layoffs, membership and cookie-sale declines, budget cuts at headquarters, and local chapters under fire for selling or threatening to close campgrounds in 27 states.

And while the Scouts are cutting to the bone, Chavez spent $65,000 on a comfortable new throne for her 17th-floor Fifth Avenue office.

She ordered the renovation of the executive restroom to include marble and slate finishes and new glass doors for the shower, a source told The Post. Some of the money went to new office carpet and other work.

Victor Inzunza, a Girl Scouts spokesman, confirmed that the bathroom and executive offices were renovated, but would not comment on the cost or whether Chavez requested the work.

“If she is making 400 grand and everyone has to tighten their belts, that’s disgusting,” fumed an employee at the organization’s Manhattan HQ.

The worker said cookie sales declined by at least 5 percent and budgets are expected to be cut by about 10 percent.

Chavez came on as CEO on Oct. 1, 2011. She was paid $98,000 for three months of work in 2011 — out of a salary of $393,380 for a full year. She also got $71,906 in “other compensation” that year including expenses to move to New Jersey and retirement-plan contributions, according to tax filings.

Inzunza said he could not discuss the budget and that cookie sale numbers were not final.

The Girls Scouts had 3.18 million girl and adult volunteer members in 2012, down slightly from 2011.

The Girl Scouts’ headquarters has been in disarray since Chavez, 45, took over, with employees complaining about her dictatorial style and a climate of fear. Letters have gone to the organization’s board of directors seeking help, with one writer calling Chavez a “Cookie Monster.”

“If you want a lesson in workplace bullying, come right on down to GSUSA,” a writer said in a recent missive…

The CEO of the New Jersey council said the group needed to sell the camp in order to pay pension obligations and other employee benefits, according to court papers.

Local councils are being squeezed by rising contributions to the Girl Scouts pension plan, which is in such bad shape that the organization sought congressional assistance.

The plan faces a massive deficit — at least $340 million, according to a 2012 lawsuit filed in Tennessee.

The plan’s finances nosedived after more employees were added to it beginning in 2006 and other workers were offered early retirement packages, the lawsuit claims.

It’s disingenuous to push unproven implementations. It’s tantamount to misrepresentation to state that the money for the membership increase will go to increased programs by stating that the money has to first go to insurance premiums and administrative programs, with an offhand comment about STEM programs.

Witness STEM flops like the one by Tim Hunt, an offhanded push to encourage women in science ends up in an international uproar. These are not issues to be taken lightly. In fact, such a misstep could discredit Girl Scouts completely, and yet Chavez seems to offer no details as to the way in which she claims she is implementing programs to benefit the Scouts.

There is no sense in pushing a non-specified STEM platform, something even schools haven’t been able to do, if there is no drive to also teach the leadership skills these young women will need to be able to thrive in those fields. Girl Scouts is falling into the same trap many schools do, which is push unproven methods to try to get young women into science without giving them the skills to advance in their careers when they get there and failing to address ingrained chauvinism that limits women’s involvement in STEM fields, not a lack of a Girl Scouts initiative.

A recent magazine article points out that study after study demonstrates that there is no ability difference when it comes to women in STEM fields but chauvinism differences:

For example, a study published in Psychology of Women Quarterly found that in a survey of natural and social science faculty at a university, the women in natural sciences encountered more sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and sexism when compared to women in social sciences. In a study of biomedical researchers published in Nature, women had to do 2.5 times the work of male colleagues to receive the same peer review score for post doctoral fellowships. When it comes to lab managers, science faculty were more likely to hire men when the male and female candidates offered the exact same credentials, according to a study discussed in the PNAS Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Faculty at doctoral programs were more willing to meet with white male candidates than white women (or any minority), according to a study in Psychological Science.

If women are trying to get their work published, they better hope the journal does a double-blind review instead of single-blind. One study, published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution, showed that when journals made that switch, the number of female first-authored manuscripts increased. If there is a math task involved, people are more likely to hire a male candidate despite being given evidence of female superiority at math tasks.

Basically, it’s not that women aren’t technically qualified for positions in STEM, but there seems to be a misperception and bias against hiring or publishing women.

Chavez claims that she has initiatives designed to help young women with absolutely no proven method for implementing them, and she is asking the Scouts for put money forward through cookie sales and membership fees toward projects that are beyond her abilities.

Selling cookies has become a hot topic in Girl Scouts, with some members actually boycotting selling cookies. In 2014, there was a published update written by Christy Valinsky, about the Girl Scouts CEO and boycotting cookie sales, and it was not flattering:

I am a former Girl Scout myself, but after hearing Ms. Chavez’s video comments, which range from misleading to blatantly deceitful, I couldn’t help but wonder if Ms. Chavez has forgotten the Girl Scout Law and its call for honesty.

Ms. Chavez argues that the CookieCott is based on a false claim that her organization has become too political. Political bias is not the reason for the CookieCott, but since Chavez herself includes this issue, let’s consider how GSUSA capped off 2013 with the promotion of left-leaning political figures and achievements.

In December 2013, Girl Scouts USA used Twitter to promote a HuffPost Women video which names State Senator Wendy Davis as a candidate for 2013 Woman of the Year specifically because of her filibuster defending late-term abortion access. A couple of weeks after the Wendy Davis debacle, GSUSA recommended a Washington Post article entitled “7 Women Who Made a Difference in 2013.” GSUSA introduced the article by stating “with courage, confidence, and character these seven women show us what it takes to fulfill dreams.” Among the Girl Scouts’ seven women of “courage and character” is Kathleen Sebelius, honored specifically for “her ferocious defense” of Obamacare.

While I don’t want Girl Scouts to get into debates about abortions, because I don’t want to debate abortions or their rights from a Girl Scout platform, the point is that Girl Scouts does have political affiliations and an agenda that hasn’t been adequately communicated to its members and their parents. Communication is the key here, and the communication is inappropriate. Chavez seems to be using her platform to promote her own agenda, with no mention of how this is supposed to be benefitting young women. Trickle-down economics don’t work, but this is what the Girl Scouts seem to be proposing.

The message from the CEO seems to assume that since Girl Scouts believes the fees are reasonable, everyone else must as well. This is a mistake. I can tell you that we live in a small town, and the larger Girl Scout Council has only sponsored one event for the local troops, a cake decorating event. There has been no evidence of larger organizational support for events like leadership training, nor any comment about how that could be grown locally. There has been a tremendous amount of paperwork for any activity and very small amounts of support from the corporate office.

Take a look at how Girl Scouts is viewed on https://philanthropy.com/article/Girl-Scouts-CEO-Faces/155079

It’s not good. Chavez is promoted as a leader who doesn’t listen and who is dictatorial. It also published a list of all of the leaders who have left under Chavez’s “leadership”:

Exodus of Top Leaders at Girl Scouts of the USA

Following are top management changes at Girls Scouts of the USA national headquarters since Anna Maria Chávez became chief executive in November 2011.

Resignations

Chief external affairs officer (Timothy Higdon left June 1, 2012)

Vice president for communications (Denise Pesich left June 15, 2012)

Vice president for finance services and technology (Margie Wang left June 15, 2012)

Retirement

Chief operating officer (Jan Verhage left June 30, 2012)

Positions Eliminated

Senior vice president for governance and administration (Deborah Long left February 1, 2012)

Senior vice president for public policy and advocacy (Laurie Westley left February 1, 2012)

There will inevitably be changes in a corporation, and it will have to seek relevancy as its members change, but the CEO message lacks transparency and communication that threatens to unseat Girl Scouts.  The price increase appears self-serving when there is no mention exactly what Girl Scouts plans to offer its members in return for its membership price increase.

In short, there doesn’t seem to be much value-added or the young women’s experience for the price increase. Pay more money so you can sell more cookies for us and increase our profit margin? Where is the benefit to the members? The Girl Scout experience is mainly how to sell more cookies, with a very small contribution by the Girl Scouts to each troop for the boxes of cookies sold, with boxes of cookies selling for $4/box and roughly $.40 going to each troop. 10% of cookie sales go directly toward troop profits or projects. Pretty small wages for those Scouts.  That small contribution coupled with small services really just exacerbates the concept of low wages for young women.

The revenues for Girl Scouts on Charity Navigator for the 2015 year lists that Girl Scouts has actually defunded program growth (http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=6551#.VwvO7zYrJPM) as the Girl Scouts CEO claims to be expanding it. Top salaries for the CEO and CFO cost 1% of the operating budget, and up to 20% of the operating expenses go to fundraising and administrative efforts. While that may be part of the operational expenses of running the organization, it’s disingenuous to say that the members are getting more programs when investment in programs declined -1.3% in 2015, more so than the percentage of CEO and CFO investment by way of salaries. Did Girl Scouts sacrifice program growth for the girls to subsidize salary growth for the CEO and CFO? There is literally almost a 1-1 correlation there.

Chavez now that she says that the price increase will go to funding programs when she has been actively de-funding programs for the members? Chavez and Girl Scouts have a very real credibility problem. There is a relevancy issue going on right now and a communication strategy that is detrimental to the Girl Scouts organization–will it unseat Girl Scouts for good?

 

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