A New Decade of Girls' Leadership

Girl Scout Research Institute

What’s It Like to Be a Girl in Today’s World?

The Girl Scout Research Institute delivers customer-centric, data-driven insights across the Girl Scout Movement and beyond. Our team measures the impact of Girl Scout programming and leads national conversations about girls and their development via groundbreaking original studies. These findings are then used to inform program, public policy, and advocacy for Girl Scouting—and we’re happy to share them with you.

Featured Research

 The Girl Scout Alum Difference: A Lifetime of Courage, Confidence, and Character (2021)

To understand the long-term benefits of Girl Scouting and earning the Girl Scout Gold Award, the Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI) conducted a national study with 1,000 Girl Scout alums, 800 women who were never Girl Scouts, and 922 Gold Award Girl Scout alums.

This research shows that participating in Girl Scouts is a powerful factor for developing courage, confidence, and character, which in turn build a foundation for success in education and careers, enable a lifetime of leadership, and provide high levels of life satisfaction. Alums assert that Girl Scouts set them on a path for achievement, connected them to something bigger than themselves, and helped them develop their passions and interests.

Learn More

Download PDF Full Report | Executive Summary
Alum Fact Sheet

A New Decade of Girls Leadership: Part 1 (2020)

The vote is in! What youth think about the gender gap in politics.

As a refresh of our 2008 study Change It Up! What Girls Say About Redefining Leadership (PDF), we conducted a national study of 3,000 girls/young women and 1,000 boys/young men ages 8–21 to better understand how young people define, experience, and aspire toward leadership now and in the future.

The findings in this report—the first in a two-part series—focus on gender, politics, and civic engagement. This report examines young people’s beliefs about women in politics, including their thoughts on the need for equal gender representation in Congress. It also examines how girls of all ages are finding ways to civically engage and take action and how girls want to take the lead in public service and advocacy!

Learn more.

Download PDF Full Report

The Benefits of Being a Girl Scout Volunteer (2020)

Research shows that volunteering offers a person all sorts of benefits, from the connection and sense of purpose felt through supporting important causes and helping people in need, to boosting one’s mental and physical health. Our fact sheet spotlights how our adult members benefit from their Girl Scout volunteer experiences; included are testimonials from troop leaders across the country on what volunteering means to them as well as quotes from girls about how volunteers impact their lives. In addition, data from the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic show how troop leaders and their troops have given back to their communities in enormous ways!

Download PDF Summary

Girls Speak Out About Mental Health (2020)

Being girl-led is part of Girl Scouts’ DNA—which is why in fall 2019 the Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI) took on the research behind Girls Speak Out About Mental Health with ten members of the G-Team, a group of high school Girl Scouts who serve as advisors to Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA). The G-Team used this research to frame a “Girls Speak Out” session at the 55th triannual National Council Session—a chance for girls to make their voices heard across the Girl Scout Movement on a topic they care deeply about.

Download PDF Full Report
WATCH VIDEO Girls Speak Out

Breaking the Firewall to Girls' Cybersecurity Access (2020)

Cybersecurity is one of the top risks that companies and individuals alike face, and it affects every aspect of our lives. Unfortunately, there is a massive shortage of experienced cybersecurity expertise, with millions of cybersecurity jobs estimated to be unfilled in the next few years. At the same time, women are grossly underrepresented in cybersecurity and hold a minority of leadership roles within the field. This paper discusses the need to create a strong future workforce by educating girls about why cybersecurity matters and giving them the skills they’ll need to pursue careers in the field. As the preeminent leadership development organization for girls, Girl Scouts is perfectly positioned to accomplish this goal. Through our programs, girls are empowering themselves with the knowledge, skills, and hands-on experience they need to thrive in the interconnected world we live in and to become the cybersecurity leaders of tomorrow.

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Download PDF Full Report

Today's Girls, Tomorrow's Entrepreneurs: Transforming Interest and Aptitude into Success (2019)

This report examines how girls experience and aspire toward entrepreneurship in their current and future lives. Many girls are already interested in careers in entrepreneurship, are actively engaged in entrepreneurial activities, and possess an entrepreneurial mindset that gives them the tools to solve problems in their day-to-day experiences, in their communities, and in the world. To transform girls’ interest and aptitude into success, adults need to give girls opportunities to learn and must work to remove the obstacles that girls identify: a fear of failure and perceptions that women in business face a steeper hill to climb than men.

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Download PDF Full Report
Study Summary English | Español
Tip Sheet for Parents and Volunteers English | Español

Decoding the Digital Girl: Supporting and Defining Girls’ Digital Leadership (2019)

Decoding the Digital Girl: Defining and Supporting Girls’ Digital Leadership details how girls are using their digital experiences to improve their lives, their communities, and the world. What we learned shows that many girls exhibit leadership in the digital space—an impressive number of them to a degree that, by the high standards of Girl Scouts of the USA, qualifies them as digital leaders. This is crucial, because in a few years the current generation of girls will enter a workforce in great need of tech talent, as well as the confidence and innovator skills that Girl Scouts helps girls develop.

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Download PDF Full Report | Study Summary
Girl Scout Summary


Studies About the Impact of Girl Scouting

Photo montage: Studies About Girls in the United States

 Girl Scout Alums Take Action! (2020)
New research by the Girl Scout Research Institute confirms that Girl Scout alums are more likely than non-alums to be civically engaged and make a difference in their communities by being leaders.

Download Fact Sheet (PDF)

Girl Scout Alums by the Numbers (2020)
This fact sheet summarizes stats and impact of the Girl Scout experience on Girl Scout alums in the U.S. 

Download Fact Sheet (PDF)

Girl Scouts Soar in the Outdoors (2019)
This report from the Girl Scout Research Institute, supported by the Elliott Wildlife Values Project, summarizes findings from a 2018–19 study investigating the impact of outdoor engagement and national outdoor badge programming on girls—including the achievement of Girl Scouts of the USA’s outdoor outcomes (PDF).  Responses to 1,690 girl and 236 troop leader surveys were analyzed. Results showed that Girl Scouts is getting girls outdoors; exposing them to new and challenging experiences; and enhancing their outdoor interest, confidence, and competence. Girl Scouting is also building girls’ commitment to environmental stewardship, which will help them engage responsibly with nature throughout their lives. In short, outdoor adventure enriches the Girl Scout experience for girls.

Download Summary (PDF)

Four Ways Girl Scouts Builds Girl Leaders in the Outdoors (2019)
For over 100 years, girls have explored and strengthened their outdoor skills and commitment to environmental stewardship through Girl Scouting. Download our fact sheet to learn about the four key outcomes that Girl Scouts’ outdoor programming helps girls achieve, as well as how these results support girls’ development of healthy habits and crucial 21st-century leadership skills.

Download Fact Sheet (PDF)

From Girl Scout Camp to Real-World Champ! (2019)
In summer 2018, the Girl Scout Research Institute collaborated with the American Camp Association (ACA) to explore whether the skills, behaviors, and attitudes youth learn at camp carry over to other parts of their lives. Survey responses from over 700 adults who attended camp as kids—424 alums of Girl Scout camp and 286 alums of non–Girl Scout camps—provide compelling evidence that Girl Scout camp sets girls up for a lifetime of success!

Download Fact Sheet | Quotes (PDF)

Four Ways Girl Scouts Builds Girl Leaders in STEM (2017)
Today, as always, Girl Scouts engages girls in unique hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programming that piques their curiosity and leaves them ready to do and learn more. By participating in this programming, girls benefit in four crucial ways: their STEM interest increases, their STEM confidence climbs, their STEM competence grows, and they come to understand the value of STEM to society. Our fact sheet summarizes these outcomes and why they’re important, including the role they play in encouraging girls to continue engaging in STEM.

Download Fact Sheet (PDF)

The Girl Scout Impact Study (2017)
This summary of findings, which draws on data from a nationally representative sample of Girl Scouts and non-Girl Scouts aged 5-18, shows that Girl Scouts are more likely than non-Girl Scouts to develop strong leadership outcomes, have adults in their lives who help them think about their future and pursue goals, and participate in activities that shape their character and open up new worlds to them.

Girl Scouts also helps girls do well in the classroom and beyond! Compared to their non-Girl Scouts peers, Girl Scouts earn better grades, have higher academic aspirations, and desire a career in STEM, business, or law; industries in which women are underrepresented. The Girl Scout Impact Report provides compelling evidence that Girl Scouts has a strong, positive impact on girls, helping them develop into citizens who are responsible, caring and engaged – and prepared for a lifetime of leadership.

Download Full Report | Fact Sheet
How Girl Scouts Enhances the State of Girls (PDF)

Five Ways Girl Scouts Builds Girl Leaders (2016)
In 2016, the Girl Scout Research Institute in collaboration with Tufts University’s Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development revised its outcomes model. The Girl Scout Leadership Experience (GSLE) now focuses on five outcomes, with validated measures that are closely connected to the to the Girl Scout mission and program activities and reflect competencies the youth development field have determined are crucial to helping youth thrive. To learn about the outcomes revision process and why these outcomes matter, download the fact sheets below.

Download Five Ways Girl Scouts Builds Girl Leaders | Girl Scout Leadership Experience Outcomes Revision (PDF)

The Power of the Girl Scout Gold Award: Excellence in Leadership and Life (2016)
In celebration of 100 years of girls changing the world, this report summarizes the positive impact of the highest award in Girl Scouting, the Girl Scout Gold Award. Findings show that Gold Award recipients represent our most successful and engaged—and happiest—Girl Scout alumnae.

Download Executive Summary (PDF)

How Girl Scout STEM Programs Benefit Girls (2016)
This report highlights findings from evaluations conducted by the Girl Scout Research Institute of nationally funded Girl Scout STEM programs. It illustrates just some of the benefits to Girl Scouts when they participate in STEM programming, particularly in relation to social and emotional impacts.

Download Full Report (PDF)

How Girl Scouting Benefits Girls (2014)
This compilation of findings from the Girl Scout Research Institute addresses the benefits of participation in Girl Scout programming.

Download Full Report (PDF)

More Than S'mores: Successes and Surprises in Girl Scouts' Outdoor Experiences (2014)
Among key findings of this study are that girls' outdoor experiences are positively linked to their challenge seeking, problem solving, and environmental stewardship. Additionally, when girls get outdoors on a monthly basis in Girl Scouts, doing even casual outdoor activities, they are much more likely to agree that they've learned to recognize their strengths, to do something they thought they couldn't do, and to gain skills that will help them do better in school. 

Download Full Report | Executive Summary | Infographic (PDF)

The Girl Scout Leadership Experience: Delivering Fun with Purpose (2014)
This summary of findings, which draws on data from national surveys of over 10,000 Girl Scouts in grades K–12, shows that the Girl Scout Leadership Experience delivers "fun with purpose" by helping girls gain valuable life skills and amazing new experiences while having fun and building friendships.

Download Executive Summary (PDF)

Girl Scouting Works: The Alumnae Impact Study (2012)
This study, conducted in conjunction with Fluent, an independent research firm, reached the following conclusion: women who were Girl Scouts display positive life outcomes pertaining to sense of self, community service, civic engagement, education, and income to a greater degree than women who were not Girl Scouts. This is the case for all alumnae, across generations, class, and race.

Download Full Report | Executive Summary | Overview (PDF)

Linking Leadership to Academic Success: The Girl Scout Difference (2012)
The findings from this report demonstrate how Girl Scouting supports academic engagement and achievement, with an emphasis on the role of Girl Scout processes and leadership outcomes in helping girls succeed in school. The findings also reveal that, in some cases, Girl Scout programming has greater benefits for lower-SES girls—that is, girls whose mothers have less than a college education. A set of "research to action" tip sheets accompanies the report, highlighting how results may be used to enhance program delivery, volunteer training, membership growth, and fundraising.

Download Full Report | Summary—English | Summary—Español | Tip Sheet (PDF)

Mapping the Girl Scout Leadership Experience Outcomes to the Search Institute's Youth Developmental Assets (2012)
By establishing the links between the Girl Scout Leadership Experience and positive youth development, this toolkit allows users to identify broader connections between Girl Scout programming and the goals of funders and other community partners that use the Youth Development Assets framework.

Download Full Report (PDF)

Studies About Girls in the United States 

Photo montage: Studies About Girls in the United States

The State of Girls 2017: Emerging Truths and Troubling Trends (2017)
The State of Girls  is the first research report to focus on the health and well-being of the 26 million girls in the United States, and contains national statistical indicators focused on key issues in economic, physical, and emotional health; education; and extracurricular/out-of-school activities. 

The third edition of this landmark report, The State of Girls 2017: Emerging Truths and Troubling Trends, focuses on national- and state-level trends across key indicators affecting girls’ overall well-being. The findings suggest that girls across the country face challenges involving obesity, emotional health, and economic conditions that haven’t improved, and in some cases have even worsened, since the Great Recession.

Download The State of Girls 2017 (PDF)

The Vote Is In: What Americans Say About the Importance of Girls’ Issues (2016)
This fact sheet summarizes how a national sample of American voters view and prioritize girls’ education and healthy development during the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election. Results show that voters care deeply about issues pertaining to girls in the United States. and wish to see these issues moved to the forefront of the national agenda in order for this country to optimally develop the next generation of leaders.  

Download Fact Sheet (PDF)

The State of Girls: Thriving or Surviving? (2014)
Examining girls' well-being across each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, this report ranks each state based on an index of girls' well-being. Five indicators are considered: physical health and safety, economic well-being, education, emotional health, and extracurricular/out-of-school-time activities.

Download Full Report | Infographic (PDF)

Running for a Change: Girls and Politics Pulse Poll (2014)
Examining girls' interest in politics today, this national poll reveals that girls have an array of political and civic engagement experiences both in and out of school—but their interest and experience doesn't necessarily lead to a future political career. They believe women are capable of pursuing political careers but realize that girls need more guidance, opportunities, and general support to further their interest in politics.

Download Fact Sheet (PDF)

Having It All: Girls and Financial Literacy (2013)
While lack of financial literacy is a growing concern for everyone today, relatively little research has been done on how young people think about money, and even fewer studies focus on girls specifically. The revelation: while 90 percent of girls say it is important to learn how to manage money, only 12 percent feel "very confident" making financial decisions.

Download Full Report and Tip Sheet for Adults English | Español | Study Summary | Infographic (PDF)

The State of Girls: Unfinished Business (2013)
This groundbreaking national report, the most comprehensive of its kind, explores the issues and trends affecting girls’ well-being in America. The takeaway: while there is promising news for girls, many are being left behind.

Download Full Report | Executive Summary  | Fact Sheet  | Slideshow (PDF)

Generation STEM: What Girls Say About Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (2012)
This national report investigates girls' interests in STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering, and math. The study finds that girls are interested in these subjects and aspire to pursue careers in related fields, but they need further exposure and education.

Download Full Report | Study Summary | Tips for Adults | Tips for Girls (PDF)

Order Executive Summary (Book)

Real to Me: Girls and Reality TV (2011)
National research shows that regular reality TV viewers differ dramatically from their non-viewing peers in their expectations of peer relationships, their overall self-image, and their understanding of how the world works. Findings also suggest that reality TV can function in the lives of girls as a learning tool and as inspiration for getting involved in social causes.

Download Fact Sheet | Tips for Parents | Tips for Girls (PDF)

The Resilience Factor: A Key to Leadership in African American and Hispanic Girls (2011)
This discussion paper, generated from national leadership research conducted by the Girl Scout Research Institute, explores the concept of resilience as a framework for developing leadership skills based on recent literature focused on African American and Hispanic girls.

Download Full Report (PDF)

Beauty Redefined: Girls and Body Image Survey (2010)
This nationwide survey, conducted in conjunction with the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, finds many girls consider the body image sold by the fashion industry unrealistic, creating an unattainable model of beauty. Nearly 90 percent of those surveyed say the fashion industry (89 percent) and/or the media (88 percent) place a lot of pressure on them to be thin.

Download Fact Sheet (PDF)

Who's That Girl? Image and Social Media Survey (2010)
This nationwide survey, which included more than 1,000 girls ages 14 to 17, finds the increased exposure to social media puts teenage girls in a confusing situation where a girl's image is not always what it seems. Nearly 74 percent of girls believe that most girls use social networking sites to make themselves "cooler than they really are," and the survey also finds that girls downplay positive characteristics—including intelligence and kindness.

Download Fact Sheet | Tips for Parents | Tips for Girls (PDF)

Disclaimer: Statistical data collected by the Girl Scout Research Institute is presented for informational purposes only and does not necessarily imply a specific position by Girl Scouts of the USA on a given issue.

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