Recommended Insights
Recommended Insights

The Importance of Young Women Leaders

Girl Scouts
CLIENT:Girl Scouts of the United States of America
LOCATION:Headquartered in New York, NY with over 100 local councils nationwide
SIZE:300+ employees

Client Profile & Challenge

Given the need for cultivating strong young women leaders, we partnered with the Girl Scouts to create new, dynamic leadership experiences specifically designed to nurture young women. These programs are a culmination of years of research on women’s leadership, leadership development, and youth development.

  • Studies have shown that girls experience a dramatic drop in confidence at the onset of adolescence.
  • We have demonstrated powerful results with our research-driven early leadership development work for youth.
  • In 2014 and 2015, we collaborated with local Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont council to develop customized programming for 100 middle and high school-aged young women called the Young Women’s Leadership Institute (YWLI).
  • This paper tells the story of those programs, highlighting each of the 4 sessions.
  • The authors and program staff model the themes of YWLI by sharing our own stories of connection.
  • We hear directly from the girls on the impact of this work, and make a strong case for robust growth and support of this initiative and others like it.

As Girl Scouts USA CEO Anna Maria Chávez notes, “Girls opt out of leadership as early as fourth grade, when they have trouble raising their hands in class.” (Porter, 2015). This phenomenon has been referred to as loss of voice or the confidence gap.

These struggles carry over into the professional realm. According to women’s leadership expert Ann Morrison, “Twentieth-century struggles for women’s rights have paved the way for today’s young women to have more possibilities than ever in some areas of the world. However there is still a very long way to go, and women still occupy only a small fraction of the top leadership positions in government and the corporate world. We know from the Breaking the Glass Ceiling work in the 1980s that women are not getting to higher positions in the workforce, and this is still deeply true today.”

Infographic: Why young women need our support - infographic

Solution & Results

One initiative that has come out of our collaboration with Girl Scouts is the Young Women’s Leadership Institute (YWLI). YWLI is designed to assist young women in better understanding themselves so they can work more effectively with others, and make more informed and focused decisions about their future. It employs experiential learning to help girls explore CCL’s research-based leadership concepts that build their knowledge, awareness, and skills.

The institute offers a number of themed retreats and workshops for young women that build on each other, with incentives encouraging girls to return over the years, including engaging and networking with local female role models in the community. This is a scalable and replicable program that can be rolled out over the course of several years, with optional train-the-trainer capacity building components to ramp up Girl Scout team members to assist in program delivery.

We adapted this program to meet the needs of a wide age range of girls and experimented with different program versions to meet school-year and summertime needs. Overall, the goal was to create programs that mix leadership development with specific themed content, such as core values, personality, career exploration, healthy relationships, communication, and community building.

YWLI has four consistent themes: authenticity, self-clarity, connection, and agency. These themes are based on our research on women’s development and empowerment.

Our young women’s leadership institute is serving an important audience, girls, and extending our research and evaluation efforts in exciting new directions. We are currently growing this initiative, building on this strong foundation, and seeking the right partners to help expand our reach and further our mission of improving the lives of as many young women as possible.

Partner With Us

Our Youth Leadership solutions provide educational leadership for the classroom, the school, and the community. Whether you are an organization seeking to improve education in your community, or a principal eager to participate in research-driven educational leadership training, we have a program to meet your needs.


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