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  • Doug Cook

Should Gender Define Scouting?

The Boy Scouts of America announced programs allowing girls into the Scouting program for all levels.  The Venturing program has allowed female youth participants since its formation in 1998 as it’s predecessor, Exploring, did going all the way back to 1969.

Why the change?


Take a look at the national membership of the Boy Scouts of America over the past 16 years.

The reasons for decreases are numerous and itself worthy of a separate post.  At the BSA national meeting in 2017, the leadership recognized that something needs changed to keep Scouting relevant.

The national data is corroborated by our local community membership (Guthrie, OK) a timeline of troops which have come and gone over the past 100 years.

At the time of this post just one troop (850) is 100% sure to continue.

One other troop (350)’s future depends on the elders of the LDS church.

This potentially leaves only one Cub pack, one Scout troop, and one Venturing crew.

Demographics and Family Scouting

The BSA looked at demographic and trends for coming years.  These include the generation called “millennials” who are having children.

Surveys indicated broad support / expectations of family scouting expectations.  This generation grew up in coed situations (e.g.  schools, non-scouting youth groups, band, academic teams, etc.).

Creating a program that embraces all members of a family is consistent with what has been successful in many other nations that are members of the World Organization of the Scout Movement.

Click on the graphic below for a PDF on background research from the WOSM on this topic.


To be a volunteer credentialed and consider fully trained in both the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of the USA takes an enormous amount of time.  The amount of training I’ve logged for 25 years as a BSA leader and 13 as a GSUSA leader are shown below.  The total is 401 hours logged.  That’s over 50 continuous days of 8 hours a day classes for Scouting to be a leader in each organization.

The reality today for the “Just let the girls join Girl Scouts” is that families with sons and daughters won’t have a parent that can commit to both. Millennial parents just won’t have the time.

The BSA policy change respects the demographic forecast of preferences for family based scouting and future leaders.Training Log: Doug CookProgramTotal HoursDateRenewal IntervalHours# RenewalsGirl Scout LeaderGirl Scouting303/11/2006None3Troop Camp CertificationGirl Scouting1603/27/20043 years16Outdoor SkillsGirl Scouting203/27/2004None2Nature FunGirl Scouting204/14/2004None2Resident CampGirl Scouting103/11/2006None1Boy Scout Leader Basic TrainingBoy Scouting1209/02/1994None12Boy Scout Leader Outdoor SkillsBoy Scouting1603/22/1996None16Wood BadgeBoy Scouting4809/29/2002None48Trainer Development ConferenceBoy Scouting408/04/2007None4Troop Committee ChallengeBoy Scouting201/30/2012None2Powder Horn High Adventure Program PlanningBoy Scouting4810/15/2005None48Youth Protection Training – Boy ScoutingBoy Scouting703/25/20022 years17Venturing Fast StartVenturing111/01/2003None1Venturing Leader SpecificVenturing609/30/2003None6Youth Protection Training – VenturingVenturing709/30/20032 years17Safe Swim DefenseBoy Scouting703/10/20052 years17Safety AfloatBoy Scouting703/10/20052 years17Weather HazardsBoy Scouting207/20/20132 years12Trek SafelyBoy Scouting207/20/20132 years12Climb on SafelyBoy Scouting3011/20/20042 years65Jamboree electronic medical records 2017Boy Scouting607/20/201716Climbing Instructor BSABoy Scouting3011/20/20042 years65Professional Rescuer CPRAll8804/30/2006Yearly811Automated External DefibrillatorAll2204/30/2006Yearly211Oxygen AdministrationAll604/30/2006Yearly23American Red Cross LifeguardAll1404/30/20063 Years141ARC Waterfront LifeguardAll604/30/20063 Years61ARC First AidAll604/30/20063 Years32Girl Scout First Aider – Level 2 (Physician Class)Professional05/23/1989––TOTAL401

Coed Scouting around the world

In October 2015, I had the pleasure of volunteering at Gilwell Park near London as a scout leader.  The UK Scout Association has been coed at all levels since 1991.

I recorded the event of Scouts contacting fellow scouts around the world by amateur radio.

If the birthplace of the Scouting movement adapted just fine so can we.  In a conversation I had with a UK Scouter this summer, the Girl Guides in UK are doing just fine with membership (553,633 in 2013) that exceeds the UK Scout association (446,432 in 2015).

Resistance to change in Scouting has happened before…

When I was elected Senior Patrol Leader in 1979, I got to attend my first evening leader meeting at summer camp which consisted of the SPL and the Scoutmaster.  It’s called a “Cracker Barrel” and the camp reviews the next day’s schedule.  There were cookies, cheese and some flavored drink, a new perk for a 14 year old SPL.

After one of those meetings a discussion began among the adults on allowing female leaders in the BSA.  I recall most remained passive while a few were quite vocal on their views against. My Scoutmaster then said something that stuck with me, “Can a female serve as a role model for Scouts?”

The debate continued until 1988 before the BSA officially allowed female leadership in the position of a Scoutmaster.

The question the BSA answered this year was “Does gender define a Scout?”  With respect to the mission and goals we strive to achieve, that answer would be no.

I see parallels in the social media discussions against the BSA’s decision and that long ago meeting in the summer camp dining hall.

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