Girl Scouts Anniversary Also Marks Growing Diversity Among its Members – Take Two Recent Girl Scout Leader Appointments – As Girl Scouts of the USA mark their 100 years of contribution today, the movement have also served to empower women and now, for the first time, an attorney is also Girl Scouts in the Chicago area, the largest in the nation, has also now pioneered empowering minority women as well.

Heading the Chicago area and Northwest Indiana as CEO now is Maria Wynne, who heads almost 87000 members across almost 250 communities. But Maria Wynne is not intimidated by the size of her region. She is also focused on helping Girl Scouts’ to overhaul the organization to focus more on diversity with its background demographics.

Last year, Mexican-American attorney Anna Maria Chavez was named the first person of color to lead Girl Scouts of the USA. The Yale-educated Chavez worked for an Arizona law firm before working in Washington for the federal government and as in-house counsel and assistant director for the Division of Aging and Community Services at the Arizona Department of Economic Security.

In 2009 she became head of Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas, followed in August 2011 as head of the Girl Scouts of the USA.

In the Chicago area, diversity has received growing attention.

“Diversity of our membership has always been around, but there’s been a very intentional focus the past few years,” said Julie Somogyi, the Chicago council’s director of integrated marketing and communications.

Wynne is a former Microsoft executive, which sounds totally in keeping with her role. However she is also a former Palestinian resident and the daughter of a Columbian mother. She was largely raised in Bogota and said many immigrant parents don’t know what scouting is, despite the worldwide presence of Girl Guides.

“Getting Girl Scouting known in the Hispanic community as an entrusted organization can be difficult,” Wynne, of Chicago, said. “Sometimes there’s even a stereotype that having ‘troops’ means we’re a military organization.”

Over the past three years, the council has worked hard to increase its Hispanic membership by assigning staff to serve as troop leaders until a volunteer base could be developed.

The council also formed relationships with faith-based organizations in various Latino and African-American communities across the 10-county territory. Though Girl Scouts isn’t a religious organization, Wynne said parents become comfortable with their daughters joining due to affiliations with trusted entities.

The council’s efforts with the Girl Scouts appears to be working too, as Hispanic membership totaled 15,792 as of September 2011, up 808 girls from the prior year. Overall, about 18.2 percent of the council’s nearly 87,000 girls report being Hispanic while 20 percent are black.

Targeted efforts to recruit the growing Hispanic population have taken place across the U.S., as well, resulting in a nearly 55 percent membership hike between 2000 and 2010. And last year, Mexican-American attorney Anna Maria Chavez was named the first person of color to lead Girl Scouts of the USA.

Girls Scouts today are still encouraged to “become a woman of all kinds of interests” in the words of founder Juliette Gordon Low, but today’s Scouts are taking journeys through topics such as car care, stress less, first aid, cooking and technology.

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