If you’re involved in Scouting, you likely know that the Boy Scouts of America officially allowed girls to join the program and changed its name to Scouts BSA quite some time ago in 2019.
However, many still don’t fully understand what Scouting looks like now that girls and boys are striving to reach Eagle alongside one another. What do troops look like? Do girls and boys do all the same things? Why should girls join the program when Girl Scouts already exists?
PS. This article is a collaboration between Star Scout, Mary-Blakely, and Eagle Scout, Cole 🙂
As one of the founding members of an all-girls troop, I have plenty of experience in Scouting. I can vouch that the program is just as important and impactful for girls as it is for boys, and I attribute many of my interests and memories to the time I’ve spent as a BSA Scout.
History of Girls in Scouts BSA
Though Scouts BSA only allowed girls in 2019, we have been involved in the wider Scouting program for over five decades! In 1969, the Boy Scouts of America allowed young women to join “special-interest” posts in the Explorer program (which is under the BSA umbrella); in 1971, they were allowed full membership. This was just the beginning for girls in the BSA.
On June 11, 2018, Boy Scouts of America welcomed girls into Cub Scouts, for youth from Kindergarten to fifth grade. Less than a year later, on February 1, 2019, they officially rebranded to Scouts BSA, and all youth—including girls—became eligible for membership. This meant that girls between the ages of eleven and eighteen could now advance through ranks and earn Eagle just as boys have been doing for over a century.
And the history of girls in Scouting will only continue from here! Just for fun, here’s an awesome list of just a few women who have made history in Scouts BSA.
How Does an Integrated Scouting Program Work?
Even though girls and boys are now part of the same program, troops still have a degree of separation. On paper, girls and boys troops are separate, but can be “linked” or “associated” (though not every troop has an associated troop of the opposite gender).
How are boy and girl BSA troops linked but seperate? Boy and girl BSA Scout troops can share a number and a charter organization, but each troop has its own adult leadership, its own committee, and its own Scout leadership. Typically, they’re differentiated when necessary with a B or G after the troop number — Troop 123B and Troop 123G.
Every linked troop operates differently when it comes to how much boys and girls associate with one another. In one troop near me, the boys and girls hardly know each other, and another is entirely integrated, with boys and girls doing all of their activities together.
My troop lands squarely in between those two extremes: while B and G meet at the same time and place, our meetings are separate for the most part. However, we have occasional joint meetings, as well as frequent joint outings. We go to summer camp together, and there are plenty of friendships between the boys and the girls!
I personally love the way my troop operates, but every future Scout and their family has the freedom to choose something different:
- Some may prefer to work with those of the same gender, and choose a less-integrated troop.
- Others may love the idea of making friends with and going on their Scouting journey side-by-side with Scouts of both genders, therefore opting for a troop that does everything together.
- Still others might like a happy medium, and pick a troop like mine.
All of those options for girl’s troops are great choices for different people! It all comes down to what your community has to offer and what you want personally.
My Experience as a Girl in a Scouts BSA Troop
When my younger brother started looking at Scout troops soon after he earned his Arrow of Light in late 2018, I tagged along to an open house for the troop he would eventually join. One of the female leaders encouraged me to consider joining the program, telling me that girls would soon be allowed to be Scouts in the program as well!
While I didn’t join in 2019, the invitation stuck in the back of my mind. More than two years later, my dad (a leader in my brother’s troop) came home from a meeting and told me that, that night, four girls and two women showed up and were starting a girls’ branch of the troop.
I was ecstatic and attended the following week. I instantly felt connected with the group of girls there. Even though most of us had never met before, we bonded quickly through our newfound love of Scouting.
The outings we went on struck me. As a former Girl Scout, I wasn’t used to regular hikes and campouts like I did in my new troop. I had never learned skills like knot-tying, knife safety, lifesaving, or any other “Scout skills.” The things I learned in Girl Scouts, while important and impactful, were very different, and I decided BSA Scouting fit me better.
One of my favorite parts of being a Scout is watching our troop grow and mature. The five girls we started with have more than doubled, and even though many Scouts come and go, I’ve watched impactful friendships form.
I’m now the oldest and the SPL, and I’m excited to watch our troop continue to grow, even after I’ve Eagled and aged out. I’ve personally experienced, and heard from other Scouts, that community is one of the most important parts of Scouting.
FAQs About Girls in the BSA
Are Girls in Scouts BSA Called Girl Scouts?
Girl Scouts of the USA is still its own organization, and they likely won’t allow boys to join any time soon. The programs are very different: BSA Scouting is more structured, while Girl Scouts is more flexible.
BSA Scouting also has a stronger focus on the outdoors; while some Girl Scout troops go hiking and camping, learn to respect nature, and use survival skills, you’re more likely (guaranteed, in fact!) to do these and more in the BSA.
Girl Scouts focuses primarily on empowering strong women, but the two organizations share an emphasis on leadership, service to the community, and preparing youth for adulthood.
Do Boys and Girls Learn Different Things in Scouts BSA?
Nope! While there are separate BSA Scout handbooks for girls and boys, all requirements are exactly the same. The only differences are photos (each handbook primarily features photos of the gender it’s directed towards) and pronouns.
Can Girls Become Eagle Scouts?
Absolutely! The inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts in 2021 consisted of 1,000 young women, and more and more earn the Eagle rank every year.
Should Girls Join Scouts BSA? Words of Advice
If you are a girl interested in joining BSA Scouts, I highly recommend you do so! I’ve learned countless valuable skills since I’ve begun, many of which I use in my everyday life. Furthermore, I’ve gotten to teach my non-Scouting friends those important abilities like building a fire, cooking, staying safe when using pocket knives, what to do in certain emergency situations, and much more.
But the values of Scouting go far beyond “Scout skills” like knot-tying or properly using an axe. Scouting teaches you to be a good citizen and a good person. I’ve done service projects which taught me about how to give back to the community. My friendships in my Scout troop have shaped me as a person.
Additionally, the merit badges I’ve learned have taught me discipline, open-mindedness, self-advocacy, prioritization, perseverance, and more. Plus, they’ve introduced me to new topics and interests which I may never have looked into otherwise.
Should my Daughter Join Scouting? Advice for Parents
For parents, your support for your daughter interested in Scouting is so important. Sometimes, girls in BSA Scouts face challenges like feeling excluded by their male peers or feeling like they don’t belong in the program because of their gender. Encourage your Scout to work hard and achieve their goals!
Become a leader in your daughter’s troop if you’re able; if you can’t do that, show your support in other ways like driving Scouts around, encouraging others to join by word-of-mouth recruitment, and simply being there for your Scout. She will greatly appreciate it, as will her entire troop!
Thank you so much for reading! I hope you learned some valuable information, whether you’re a girl looking into Scouting, a parent, or you’re already a Scout and just wanted to learn more about the program.
I always invite my friends to look into becoming a Scout, and I extend that invitation to you as well! Find a troop near you. Email a Scoutmaster. Go to an open house. Talk to a friend who is already a Scout. You won’t regret it!
If you found this article at all helpful, you may also be interested in reading another one here:
- 7 Fun Scout Meeting Ideas to Engage and Strengthen Your Troop (also by Mary-Blakely!)
- The Essential Camp Packing List: A Scout’s Trek Gear Checklist
- 67 Epic Scouting Quotes To Keep Scouts Prepared And Inspired
- A Brief History and Timeline of Scouting
- Can Girls Join Boy Scouts? Nicole’s Scouting Success Story
Good luck on your Scouting journey! If you’re a girl who’s about to join her new troop for the first time, you’re in for an incredible adventure ahead. 🙂
About the Author: Mary-Blakely is an aspiring Eagle Scout from Troop 32, who is so grateful for the community she’s found and skills she’s learned through Scouting. She can’t wait to continue learning, growing, and glorifying God throughout her adventures, and hopes her writing will help you do the same.