Utilizing Important Resource in W.Va.: Girls

From coal and natural gas production to the automotive, aerospace, biotech industries and beyond, when you think of West Virginia, you can’t help but think about the resources that power our country.

However, one thing that might not necessarily be top of mind is one of our greatest, largely untapped resources — girls and their incredible potential.

According to the 2017 annual report of the West Virginia Women’s Commission, among all 50 states and the District of Columbia, West Virginia ranks 51st when it comes to the number of women with a college degree, 51st in the percentage of women who are engaged in the labor force, and 39th in the number of women who hold professional titles.

West Virginia also has significant underrepresentation of women in its state legislature and on state boards and commissions.

We need to do better.

We need to help our girls and young women develop the leadership skills they need to be active participants in our growing economy and to succeed professionally. By doing so, we can help not only the next generation of female leaders, but we can also harness economic success for our families, our state, and beyond.

As a United States senator, Girl Scout alum and the CEO of Girl Scouts of Black Diamond here in West Virginia, we know firsthand what girls can achieve when they feel encouraged, empowered, and supported.

And as West Virginians compete in the American marketplace and with companies worldwide, this is a crucial moment for our state to tap into the power of girls and to invest in and leverage their talents, skills, and vision.

Fortunately, there are ways we can promote girls and help them develop into the leaders we need.

Girl Scouts remains a strong presence in West Virginia and across the country. The organization is a place where everything is designed with and for today’s girls so that they can become tomorrow’s leaders.

The organization is combining the best of its legacy experiences — like outdoor adventure, camping, and the Girl Scout Cookie Program — with forward-thinking programming in STEM, including computer science, computational thinking and engineering, to ensure it offers relevant, meaningful, one-of-a-kind experiences for today’s girls.

Girl Scouts of Black Diamond incorporates exciting, 21st century programming that offers girls hands-on skills training in the industries of tomorrow. Large fall events –Wizarding World, Camp Creepy and Haunted Gisco — are all heavily STEM-focused, and the Girl Zone Day Camps revolve around fun, science-based activities.

This past year, the group held “State of Girl” events at West Virginia University and Marshall University with subject matter experts from across the state to discuss the health and well-being of girls in our region.

The organization is applying time-tested, research-backed methods that speak to today’s girls and are designed to cater to the strengths of girls’ leadership development. For one, Girl Scouts knows that preparing more female leaders in West Virginia and across the country means starting young and making sure that today’s girls are acquiring the courage, confidence and host of skills they’ll need to take the reins of leadership in the decades to come.

At the same time, efforts like Senator Capito’s West Virginia Girls Rise Up program are also helping to shape and encourage young women in our state.

Through the initiative, Senator Capito travels to elementary schools across West Virginia speaking to fifth grade girls about the importance of education, physical fitness, and self-confidence — sometimes bringing along special guests like NASA astronaut Dr. Peggy Whitson to inspire the girls and highlight the opportunities available to them in STEM fields.

The idea behind all of these visits and the goal of the program itself is to show West Virginia girls how much potential they have and to encourage them to unlock it.

West Virginia is in a prime position to leverage the capacity, creativity and energy of girls and young women. And Girl Scouts remains one of the best ways to unleash the leadership potential of girls — girls who can become the future drivers of our economy in West Virginia and the future leaders of our communities, our country, and the world, by encouraging them to dream big and work hard to achieve their goals.

But we can’t do it alone. It will take the combined efforts of a great many of us to help young girls develop into successful women who will lead our country to new heights and make our world a better place.

Shelley Moore Capito is a Republican United States senator serving West Virginia. Casey is chief executive officer of the Girl Scouts Black Diamond Council.

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