April 2019: I was fascinated by a recent report from the Girl
Scout Research Institute. They conducted a national study with nearly
2,900 girls and boys ages 5–17, and their parents, for a closer look
into girls’ digital experiences and their use of technology to lead in
their own lives. I was surprised at the impressive number of girls who
exhibited leadership in the digital space. The study indicated that
more than half of girls are digital leaders. What that means is these
girls exhibit confidence, enthusiasm, and love for learning; the
ability to consume information online with a critical lens; and
interest and aptitude in creating, innovating, and connecting with
social issues and causes digitally—and inspiring others to do the
Interestingly, and maybe surprising to many, was that fact that girls are as likely as boys to be digital leaders. Girls and boys don’t differ significantly when it comes to digital leadership overall: 52% of girls and 50% of boys are digital leaders. Girls who are digital leaders are more likely than non-digital leader girls to be interested in STEM fields and future tech careers. And Girl Scouts are more likely to be digital leaders than boys, and non–Girl Scout girls! Sixty-four percent of Girl Scouts are digital leaders, versus 50% of boys and 43% of non–Girl Scout girls.
Girl Scouts stand out in the digital space. They’re able to:
- Connect themselves and others to social issues and causes
- Find reliable information
- Use technology to create something new
With a little help and encouragement, every girl can become a
Here are five ways you can support girls’ digital leadership:
- Emphasize to girls that they have what it takes to lead in the digital space, as girls are often given less of this encouragement than boys.
- Find out what exactly girls are doing on the internet. Talk to them about their online activity and help them engage safely and meaningfully.
- Treat daughters and sons equally when it comes to establishing rules about tech use.
- Teach girls to be skeptical about information they find online—to consider various sources and evaluate their legitimacy—in order to build media literacy.
- Encourage girls, starting at a young age, to take healthy risks and learn from setbacks in their online activity, reminding them that some of the best innovation comes from trying, failing, and trying again (and again!).
Girl Scouting in particular caters to girls’ specific learning and leadership styles and reflects the most promising practices for developing even more girls who are not just comfortable engaging digitally today, but who are primed to lead us into the digital future!
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