Cookies Camp And Crafts Plus
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 0:11
Welcome to "Your Authentic Path to Powerful Leadership" with Marsha Clark. Join us on this journey where we're uncovering what it takes to be a powerful woman leader. And, Marsha, I know that line from the movie "Jaws" when Chief Brody sees the shark for the first time and tells the captain, "You're gonna need a bigger boat." And, yeah, so this line popped into my head when I saw all the amazing research for today's show. And except my thought was, "Okay, we're gonna need a longer and bigger podcast for this."
Marsha Clark 0:45
Yeah, really, truly when I first read this, and I'm thinking, what on earth? Where are we going with this?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 0:51
I know, I know.
Marsha Clark 0:52
I thought it was the plus part, right? Yeah, you know, the Cookies Camp and Crafts PLUS! I thought that was the bigger. But I agree with you. We've got lots of good information to cover. And today is going to be really special with one of my favorite people. And I can see how we might need some extra time to explore all the the amazing work and results that she's doing and getting.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 1:11
Awesome. Well, then why don't you do the honors and introduce our guest today.
Marsha Clark 1:16
Well, I'm happy to do that. Today our guest, as Wendi, said is Jennifer Bartkowski. And she is the Chief Executive Officer of Girl Scouts of North East Texas. You may see that in media literature as GSNETX. So now you know what that means. She has been with the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas since 2009. And she previously served as the Chief Development Officer and Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Northeast Texas Girl Scouts. And so we're going to cover more later about some of the very great, cool, amazing projects that she has championed for this council. But for now, I wanted our listeners to get this quick intro. So thank you, Jennifer, for being here.
Jennifer Bartkowski 2:02
Thank you for having me. I'm so honored.
Marsha Clark 2:04
Yeah, she's an A list. Let me just tell you.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 2:08
Jennifer, during National Women's History Month, we're highlighting nonprofit organizations that are specifically there to support women and girls, which is one of the reasons we're so excited that you could join us today. You and your organization check all those boxes, for sure.
Marsha Clark 2:24
And I just want to say Girl Scouts of the USA is one of the first organizations in this country, or when it was started, to focus solely on the development and support of girls. And, you know, with this emphasis, and I love this part, on adventure that can have lots of different definitions, and self reliance which is what it takes to be an adult. So Jennifer, what drew you initially to working with this organization?
Jennifer Bartkowski 2:48
Well, I was a Girl Scout growing up. My mother was my leader. Her mother was her leader, my daughter was a Girl Scout. So Girl Scouting has been a part of my life and a part of my leadership journey since the very beginning. And I'm one of those strange people that went to school and studied at the thing that they are now doing, you know, so I got my Master's in Public Administration with a focus on nonprofit management. And here I am today after 25 years of fundraising and leadership experiences and in 2009, Girl Scouts came calling and it was just a full circle moment.
Marsha Clark 3:18
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 3:19
That's so neat. Wow. So I want to give our listeners who may not be as familiar with the history of the Girl Scouts, I wanted to share some background from the research that we did before you came on the show today. And I'd love for you, Jennifer, to jump in and add any personal commentary along the way if you'd like.
Jennifer Bartkowski 3:39
I'd love to.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 3:39
Perfect. So the organization was originally founded in 1912 by a woman named Juliette Gordon Low and apparently this was after she was inspired by a meeting the previous year with a Sir Robert Braden Powell, who was the founder of the Boy Scouts. And the first troop in the United States was established in Savannah, Georgia, and had about 18 girls. Is that right?
Jennifer Bartkowski 4:06
That's right. And in fact I've heard a rumor that part of the reason she was asked to start the Girl Scouts was because girls were so excited about what the Boy Scouts were doing that they were dressing up as boys to participate.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 4:11
Of course! I would have been there. I would have been one of them. I mean, I know you too, Marsha, you tree climber. You and I are both tree climbers. I know this. So all of this information is available on the girlscouts.org website in their history section. And one of the things that jumped out to me was the description that these girls all shared a sense of curiosity and a belief that they could do anything. Expound on that, Jennifer.
Jennifer Bartkowski 4:43
And that's still true today. Girls can do anything but sometimes girls don't have the confidence to do everything that they can potentially do. And so that's what our programming is all about. It's about building confidence and courage and character so that girls can be the best version of themselves in the future and the best leader that we need them to be in our community.
Marsha Clark 5:03
And that's where the alignment comes in because all the work I do is what you just said, ditto for sure. And then one last bit of history about the Girl Scouts organization that I found interesting is that it expanded globally pretty quickly. So Savannah, Georgia, not exactly the hub of international... but there it was, and according to the girlscouts.org website, the first girl scout troops were launched outside the United States in China, Syria, and Mexico, Asia, Middle East and North America. One of the earliest Native American Girl Scout troops formed on the Onondaga Reservation in New York State in 1921 and Mexican American girls formed a Girl Scout troop in Houston, Texas in 1922. Lone troops on foreign soil, later called the USA Girl Scouts Overseas, registered its first Girl Scout troop in Shanghai, China, with 18 girls in 1925. And I just want to take a minute and think about this. You know, we're talking about an organization that was formed by one woman in 1912. And in less than a decade, it expanded globally. And I find that, in and of itself, remarkable, and keep in mind that even here in America, women got the vote in 1920. You know, so this was formed before women even got the vote. So this idea of having the confidence to do and be your best self, and to prepare for leadership when we couldn't even get the vote. I mean, that's amazing.
Jennifer Bartkowski 5:03
It's pretty phenomenal. And Juliette Gordon Low was quite a character. Over drinks I could tell you some of the fun stuff she did, like hold troop meetings standing on her head and things like that. But she was a 53, 55 year old woman when she started Girl Scouts. And again, yet, like you said, it was before women even had the right to vote. But as you can see, because of the quick expansion, there was such a need and a desire to get girls out of their cloistered home environments into the open air and give them some opportunity to really change the world around them.
Marsha Clark 7:06
Yeah, I love that.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 7:07
So obviously, the Girl Scouts has been around for a little over a century. And now Juliette, I'm seeing in my notes here, was also known as Daisy, and her small circle of girls has grown to more than 59 million Girl Scout alumni, which is incredible to me, and united across the distance and decades by friendships, shared adventures, and the desire to do big things and make the world a better place. So, I mean, obviously, this is an incredibly inspiring organization. And I love that we've kind of walked down memory lane with this, and especially since we're here in Women's History Month, but I'd love to ask a question about how has the Girl Scouts changed over those 100 plus years.
Jennifer Bartkowski 7:52
You know what? We have 110 years of traditions and legacies and in many ways we have stayed the same. We're still committed to social and emotional learning and ensuring girls can be the best version of themselves and develop the self esteem and confidence that they need. However, in 110 years, a lot of things have changed in this world. And today, girls need different things and different opportunities and different access than they ever needed before. And they're finding themselves in different places in their leadership journey than they ever were before. And so we have shifted dramatically, in many ways to give girls opportunity, for instance, in STEM, science, technology, engineering and math. Post COVID we pivoted to providing much more mental health and wellness programming for our girls because they desperately need it right now. Our cookie program is the largest entrepreneurship program in the world.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 8:40
Love the cookies.
Jennifer Bartkowski 8:41
They're the best. And but actually a girl owns her own business for six weeks out of the year. And she makes, she learns decision making and customer service and financial management, business ethics. So really pulling out what is relevant to girls today is really a big part of how we've evolved and grown.
Marsha Clark 8:59
And I just want to add, because that is the fear that I hear women talk about is that is it really preparing them for the world of women today. You know, how to read a sewing pattern may not be quite as useful, you know, or how to do mosaic tiles or setting a perfect table. I mean, I know those are important things, but we want women at tables we're big decisions are being made. And I I love what you're doing particularly in the STEM area and knowing you've got a beautiful facility that you're going to tell us about. But this idea of we want our councils to be focused on what girls need today to be powerful women. And this idea of traditions, the mission can be the same and yet how we fulfill that mission is a part of what's changed. And I love what you're doing in this council and I know there are other councils and each one's going to have its own flavor. How does what you're doing relate to what other councils are doing? How do y'all work together?
Jennifer Bartkowski 9:58
So first I will say there are legacy badges. Girls love to sew and to cook and to do those things. So we do have a few of those leftover that have stuck with us because they...
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 10:07
I think that's great. Who knows how to sew today? I know.
Jennifer Bartkowski 10:12
And those are good life skills, right? Right. Yeah, great life skills. But you know, as you said, we've had to evolve. And so we have budgeting badges. And we have robotics badges. We have coding badges. And we have, you know, all kinds of space science badges and just all kinds of things that you can't even imagine. And it is true. Each council, there are 111 Girl Scout councils across the country, there's Girl Scout councils across the world. And each of us does have to kind of understand the culture of our community. And here in Dallas, Texas, we have a lot of need to change the workforce pipeline for the future. There are not enough engineers, not enough technologists in this community to fulfill all the jobs that are going to be opened in the next 10 years. And so part of what we're trying to do is get girls introduced to and encouraged and excited about what the future could hold for them. And so for us, we are really innovative in the world of STEM, science, technology, engineering and math by creating a STEM Center of Excellence. Just yesterday, I had 10 folks from the Colorado Council in town, exploring our STEM Center of Excellence, because they're looking to do something like that in their community.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 11:10
And where's that located?
Jennifer Bartkowski 11:11
Our STEM Center of Excellence is in southwest Dallas. And it is a 92 acre facility. It had its grand opening in 2018. And pre COVID, we were serving 6,000 Girl Scouts and 4,000 public, private and charter school kids there on field trips every single year. And it is, we had a big bold vision to change the workforce pipeline for North Texas. And I was really proud when I heard that the North Texas Chamber of Commerce when they were trying to attract Amazon to Dallas, they actually used that as part of their pitch to say that we were home growing talent in this community. So for us, STEM was really an important focus, I think a lot of the councils across the country. And we were one of the first pivot to mental health and wellness programming post COVID. My own daughter has struggled with her mental health since COVID. And so I saw it personally and then also professionally, that those were changes we needed to make really quickly.
Marsha Clark 11:59
And I just want to have our listeners notice, 92 acres south of Dallas, that's prime real estate.
Jennifer Bartkowski 12:04
That is prime real estate. But fortunately, in 1927, we got our first donation of land, and we've gotten several other donations of land. And then about five years ago, we purchased the last 38 acres. So we are in great, in a great spot and beautiful area, the most beautiful area of our community. And we have people out there all the time and it's fantastic.
Marsha Clark 12:23
Yeah, I mean, that's big time Charlie. That's big time stuff.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 12:26
Yeah. So for our listeners who might not be familiar with the Girl Scouts, share with us, Jennifer, the specific mission and vision for your chapter here in North Texas.
Jennifer Bartkowski 12:37
So our mission is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. And as you can imagine, I think we all know that every grown woman needs courage, confidence and character sometimes, in some time in her life. So that is a mission that I think has just stood the test of time. Our vision at our council is to help girls thrive in the 21st century. We believe that our organization has to shift to be the best organization, the best version of ourselves to meet the girls where they are in the 21st century. And so that's really our focus today.
Marsha Clark 13:08
And I have to tell you, so I hear all the time, you know, when people come out of programs that I'm teaching, or whatever, and they say "Where were you when I was 25?" And of course, I say that I don't know if you were ready for this when you were 25, but that's all another story. But you know, this idea of if we, the earlier we start creating girls of you know, courage, confidence and character, the easier it is as an adult woman in being able to exude those in ways that where I can stand in my power in a more grounded and centered in that more authentic way. And so the fact that you're doing this, you are filling the pipeline.
Jennifer Bartkowski 13:42
We absolutely are. And I think it's really important to recognize that girls often have a ton of confidence and the younger ages, and it's about the age of nine where that confidence dips, and they start to question themselves. And if we can build on that confidence that already exists, then we don't have to necessarily dip as low as we might have otherwise. And STEM is a perfect example of this. Girls start to exit the pipeline as early as third grade. That's when they start to develop their STEM identity and it's when they start to hear that boys are better at math than girls and that maybe they don't have the confidence to continue to do these hard things. And so we have to get to them early. If you wait to get a girl excited about STEM in high school, you have dropped to 11% of girls being interested in a STEM career. So you've got to start early.
Marsha Clark 14:27
So let me ask you this, because I'd always read it was around 11 or 12 and you just said 9. Is that age getting ever earlier or is our research just better now than it used to be?
Jennifer Bartkowski 14:36
The number I've seen is 9, that that's your kind of peak of self esteem. I would imagine that that has evolved and changed over the years. So with social media and just the media, the division of our world, COVID, the pandemic, everything that girls have faced in the last several years, I would imagine that number is going down.
Marsha Clark 14:54
I bet that's right.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 14:55
So Jennifer, I also think that your value proposition is worth sharing, especially with our audience, because it speaks directly to what matters to us when it comes to building powerful, authentic leadership. So will you share that with us?
Jennifer Bartkowski 15:10
Sure, I'd love to. Girl Scouts is the only organization that prepares every girl to practice a lifetime of leadership by providing access to countless girl-led experiences, skill-building opportunities and connections. Because girls built of courage, confidence and character make the world a better place.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 15:27
I just love that.
Marsha Clark 15:28
I do too. There's so much power in that one statement and I think, you know, the idea of providing girl-led experiences. When my eldest granddaughter, she had friends that were going into cheer and "Mom, I may want to go into cheer" because she's been an athlete, she played every sport and all that kind of stuff. And her mom, and this is why l love the girl-led experiences, "I want people cheering for you, not you on the sidelines cheering for others." And I just go yes, you know, cuz that's how girl-led experiences, what that can look like. And then the skill building, and the connections, all of it. I just think it's extraordinarily important.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 16:02
Yeah, absolutely. And especially the phrase about building courage, confidence and character, I think I'm gonna put that on a sticky note on my computer at home. I mean, who wouldn't benefit from that, and especially at such a young age that you're starting to get girls into your councils and programs. You never know what you're combating in her home environment, or her school environment or a sibling situation. Like you just never know.
Jennifer Bartkowski 16:31
That's right. And often people will tell me, you know, kindergarten moms aren't really thinking about their daughter being the CEO of a company someday. What they really care about is that they can go into school and find a place of belonging and meet friends. Well, meeting friends take some courage, confidence and character also. So if you want, if that's the start of life that you want your daughter to have, or the girl in your life to have, there's no reason why you don't want to have that courage, confidence, character and ultimately, to achieve your full potential. And I often joke that not every girl is going to be the president of a major corporation, not every girl is going to be the first female president of the United States, although I think the first female president of the United States will be a Girl Scout. But every girl has to be the CEO of her own life. And she has to be able to make the smart decisions about what she does and the choices that she makes. We want every girl to have that strength, that courage, that confidence and that character, to make the best decision she can at every single age. So foundationally, I think Girl Scouts is really critical to a girl's future.
Marsha Clark 17:27
I love that. I love all of that. And now, just another question to help lay out the foundation here. So you started with the Girl Scout group in 2009. How did this council get built and sort of the forming of that, because I want our listeners to hear this. This North Texas area, there are speculation reports coming out with the growth of the population here, that the Dallas, Fort Worth, North Texas area will soon surpass Chicago as the third largest statistical metropolitan or standard metropolitan statistical area for population. So this is booming. Texas is a business state bringing lots of stuff in here. This particular part of Texas as well as the Houston, San Antonio, Austin areas are growing dramatically. So I think about your council and what you're doing. I mean, tell us more about all of that.
Jennifer Bartkowski 18:18
Sure. Yeah, I hadn't heard that stat yet, but I'm not surprised. People are moving here very fast. And we are currently the 12th largest Council in the country. And we are on a growth trajectory. So I'm hoping that we can get even larger than that in the future. There are two different councils, one in Dallas and one in Fort Worth and I'll tell you a little bit about that. But we've been around since 1917. But in 2007, Girl Scouts of the USA went through a historic national realignment of councils. Before that there were 312 councils and strategically, it just made sense to consolidate so that girls could get a more consistent and more robust experience. So here in North Texas there were three councils, a house council, which was the Dallas area, there was another council in East Texas and one up north around Denton. And those three councils merged. And similar to the national merger, there was an urban council, a rural council and a suburban council. And there were different levels of resources in each of those. And the goal nationally was that in every single new council area, there would be about 150,000 girls potentially to be Girl Scouts. And that allowed us to bring resources to all those girls to have a consistent experience across all those girls, and to really streamline our process procedures and staffing and all of that. And so that happened in 2007. It was disruptive as all good mergers can be and it was hard. You know, we merged boards and staffs and technology and, you know, cultures and all of those things. And I showed up in 2009 so a little after the merger happened, but I remember I was telling someone yesterday that it was 2011 when some volunteers were complaining about the merger and I said, "You know what? It's over." Right. It's time to move on. (In the rearview mirror.) And actually, I think it's the best thing that's happened to our council. We've grown significantly since then in many, many different ways. And we're a strong council - 32 counties, 23,000 square miles. We go from DFW Airport to Louisiana, up to Oklahoma and down to north of Waco. I always say I'm the very proud CEO of Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas and I truly am.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 20:16
That's awesome. And how many girls in the region?
Jennifer Bartkowski 20:19
We serve a little under 20,000 post COVID. So COVID definitely had a hard hit on Girl Scouts because we lacked access to schools for two years. But we are in a growth trajectory now and we'll be coming back hopefully to prior year numbers and even bigger because every girl I think right now needs Girl Scouts.
Marsha Clark 20:34
Do you still have the rural urban and suburban councils that address all that? Because when you think about the area that you cover, it's got all of that and then some.
Jennifer Bartkowski 20:44
Yeah, so we serve all of that area. We have a diverse board of directors that represent geography, different geographies, as well as demographics and ethnicities and skill sets and all of that. We have staff in each of those areas. And then of course, we have our 8,500 volunteers that are working with Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas. So they're all over the place as well.
Marsha Clark 21:02
So you've been on this journey of transformation since you've come in. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Jennifer Bartkowski 21:08
Yeah, so I've been the CEO for eight and a half years and we've been through a few strategic plans. But the current transformation, I think, is the biggest and boldest transformation that we've ever faced as a council and also as a movement. So I am super excited about where we're headed. Quite honestly we, coming into COVID, we were not entirely in a position of strength. We had seen a decline in membership for a little over 10 years, nationally and locally. And that was true of many youth organizations but it's not okay at Girl Scouts because we have girls who need us. So we kept trying to tweak the model. We were inviting in strategic thinkers to help us think through it, we were making changes. And yet we kept hitting the same brutal truths and those brutal truths around our key stakeholders were not changing, they were not improving and we weren't finding that we were turning the needle on actually starting to grow. And so when COVID hit, you know, we had to focus in on just surviving for a bit. And then when we came out of COVID, I recognized that this was a moment in time, this opportunity to really reimagine Girl Scouts. And that's what we started doing. We in fact, went to our good friends at Deloitte and ask them to invest in us. And they actually invested a half million dollar pro bono project - 16 weeks with seven staff, and with the Monitor Institute, which is their nonprofit arm. And they came in and they spent all this time with us deep diving into our data, into our stakeholders, doing focus groups, really trying to understand what we were doing. And out of that, they helped us to really understand that our delivered, our what we're doing, our programming is solid. It's relevant, it's resonating with families, even in families that don't know anything about Girl Scouting, when you ask them what they want for their daughter, they're describing Girl Scouts without those words.
So our programs, particularly in this council are really robust. And we're really proud of them. And that's solid for now. But how we're delivering it wasn't as strong. So the Girl Scout troop model is a great model. It's been with us for a long time. Unfortunately, it's a difficult model and women who are, 96% of our volunteers are busy and they don't have the kind of time that they used to have. And the other delivery models that we had tried are not all scalable and we needed to look at them differently. So Deloitte helped us develop a gait model to start an incubation lab to really look at how do we go into communities. In communities is the key word there, right? There are communities where we've just never connected with those families. And so instead of delivering Girl Scouts and saying, "Here's Girl Scouts. Take it or leave it.", we've had to really shift our mindset and go in and say, "You have great traditions and legacies in your community. What is it that you want for your girls and how can we help you deliver that?" And so that we got through the Deloitte work, we realized it was not a transformational enough strategy. And so actually, me and my executive team spent the next three months diving even deeper, and out of that came a strategic plan that was unanimously approved by our board in August. And its focus is really on addressing our own selves first before we go out into community. And so we've got a people pillar, a process pillar, we're reimagining our spaces and then we're really looking at our delivery model in the community and how we engage the community differently. So it's been a big, giant project and it just launched on October 1.
Marsha Clark 24:14
So my question is, given all of that tremendous amount of work and the tenure of doing the deep dive work, did that change your vision at all or what you're trying to accomplish? Did that get clearer?
Jennifer Bartkowski 24:28
Well, so it's interesting. You know, our vision is still to be the best organization to help girls thrive in the 21st century. This is just a better way to get there. (Okay.) What became really clear, and Marsha, this shouldn't be any surprise to you, is that we had to start with our own selves, right? We had to invest in our people in a different way. And that's the only way we're going to be the best version of ourselves. And in the past, we've always looked externally, but we got feedback from some of these communities that until you start with yourselves, we're not ready to talk to you. And we took that to heart. It was hard to hear, but it was also the truth. And so we're embracing that.
Marsha Clark 25:00
And I love that. You know, I always talk about leadership is, self awareness is the first step and all that kind of stuff so being able to see ourselves, to work on ourselves, to understand ourselves, to broaden and deepen that understanding. And then I can't help others if I'm not healthy myself, so to speak.
Jennifer Bartkowski 25:17
That's exactly right. And, you know, I had the honor of participating in the CCC Program. And it was one of several programs that had a really impactful impact on me, because it helped me become more self aware of my own leadership. So what we discovered at Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas was that our executive team was sort of pulling the organization forward. The middle part of our organization didn't feel like they had the authority or the permission to make big decisions about the work that they were doing. And so we didn't feel like we were owning our work or had the accountability that we needed to be really successful, particularly seeing what's coming to us, right, like this uncertain world that we live in. And so we launched a Leadership Academy with your and my good friend, LeeAnn Mallory, who co-curated the content for that to help bring 44 of my staff along this leadership journey. So for many of them, this is a very first time they're on a leadership journey of their own self awareness. They're thinking about the dreaded trauma triangle, and you know, how they're showing up at work and they're doing mindfulness exercises. And that commitment and that investment in our staff, I think, is going to be transformational.
Marsha Clark 26:22
So the podcast we downloaded this week, we're recording this in mid-December, was LeeAnn Mallory.
Jennifer Bartkowski 26:29
I listened to it on my way here. I said, that's my friend, LeeAnn!
Marsha Clark 26:32
That's right. That's right. She and I have known each other a long time. You have a great guide in that regard. And, I think this institute aspect of really building your own, because then I can know what leadership looks like in an age appropriate way for the girls when I understand the insight for them is powerful, authentic leadership as adult women.
Jennifer Bartkowski 26:54
That's right. That's great. It's an exciting journey. I'm so thrilled that we're able to do it. You know, the investment in ourselves first, I think, is going to allow for succession planning and retention of employees. But most importantly, it's going to allow for us to show up in the best authentic way in our community.
Marsha Clark 27:09
And I just want to say, on the middle part of the organization feeling a bit disconnected or disenfranchised or disempowered or whatever it might be, the middle part of an organization, if you remember, I mean, that's where everything comes together. The individual contributors are feeding up to the middle, the top is, you know, communicating down to the middle, and then they've got to make sense of it, interpret it, be the air traffic controllers and all that kind of stuff. So working on that level is going to yield amazing benefits.
Jennifer Bartkowski 27:37
I hope so. We're halfway or about a third of the way through a nine month Leadership Academy. So we are already seeing change in the staff.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 27:44
Awesome. So I've got here in my notes that you have a statement about what your ideal future state looks like for your council here in Northeast Texas. Would you share that with us?
Jennifer Bartkowski 27:55
So our vision for the future is Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas believes that girls of all backgrounds should have the opportunity to become Girl Scouts and build their courage, confidence and character to become leaders of tomorrow. We will achieve this by building deeper relationships in communities that have not historically engaged in Girl Scouts and serve them in a way that best fits their unique needs. So we committed to that vision for the future. There's a lot of work wrapped up in that including our commitment to inclusion and equity, which is much deeper and bolder than ever before.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 28:27
Yep, yep. So I know you've already talked about some pretty significant milestones over the last couple of years, especially in the light of the pandemic. Why don't you talk about what has happened since everything changed in March of 2020 up to today.
Jennifer Bartkowski 28:42
Oh my goodness. I remember in March of 2020 I was on a vacation with my son and we got home at nine o'clock on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning I shut the office down. Yeah. And you know, as you remember, it was for a week. But within 48 hours, we pivoted and started delivering virtual programming. I joke now looking back, it was not very good virtual programming, but we recognize the need that girls had immediately. They were isolated. They were anxious. They were stressed. They didn't know what was happening, and neither did we. And we wanted to be there for them. So we immediately did that. We were on this journey toward a initiative in mental health and wellness. We fast tracked it and launched it in April of 2020. We had to close down camp that summer, one of the hardest decisions I've ever made. Girls needed camp, but there was no way to hold camp in summer of 2020. So we did that virtually, which I hope we never have to do again. And then we started opening back up in September 2020 to families and ultimately to Girl Scout troops in a very safe way. Interestingly, we opened camp up fully to Girl Scouts in summer 2021 And it was a bit of a disaster quite honestly. We were not prepared for the girls as they showed up. Many of them had not been back to school. They hadn't interacted with other girls very much. They showed up stressed, anxious with significant mental health issues. Some of them were depressed. There was a lot of challenges. And they really had forgotten how to interact with one another. Their social and emotional skills were not practiced and prepared. And our staff were not prepared for that. And so it was a tough, tough summer. Across the country, it was tough, even in non Girl Scout councils for all the same reasons. And I wrote an op ed that made was printed in the Dallas Morning News in August preparing schools for what they were going to get because schools are institutions that we put so much pressure on to do so many things. And if the girls don't, and boys even, don't have the social emotional foundation, they're not going to be prepared to learn. (Right.) So that was challenging. So then, you know, fast forward, we have been preparing ourselves to be better prepared for the girls of today. They're a little bit different, and they need to have different needs. So coming out of COVID we started this Reimagine Girl Scouts work, and we're delivering on our promise to girls as best we can.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 30:49
Well, I want to jump in here and talk about the resources that the Girl Scouts makes available online to parents, teachers, caregivers, anyone who's trying to support girls, you know, not only through the challenging times that are continuing that are the fallout of what happened two years ago. So they're under gsnetx.org, under the families tab, and I just wanted to share real quick a few of the titles of the articles available on Jennifer's website. One of them is "Talking About Self Harm", "13 Reasons Why She's Keeping Secrets", "When Scary News Shakes Her World". I mean, that's just three examples of some of these articles that parents and caregivers can use as resources. They're free, and for me, what I'm taking away from this is that they're really speaking to the commitment that this council has to all of the girls and their families here in the North Texas area.
Jennifer Bartkowski 31:50
Absolutely. And that website is gsnetx.org. There's a lot of information there, a lot of resources. We want to make it available to families as they need it. And then of course, signing up to be a Girl Scout gets you access to so much more and certainly connections and places of belonging for girls that they may not be able to get anywhere else. You know, what I think about the future of Girl Scouts, we are the social and emotional partner for these families and for schools. We're a confidence creator, we're the builder of coping skills, a place of belonging, the source of self esteem, the solid ground and the leadership developer that every girl needs but very few girls get in the current system. And as I mentioned before, with schools at their breaking point, I feel like right now they're not going to get that at school. And not every girl has a strong family base or a strong community or place of worship. So Girl Scouts is sort of the fourth leg of the stool that every girl needs, I think, going forward and particularly right now.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 32:45
Yeah, it's we're way beyond cookies, camps, crafts, you know, and all of that. So one thing that really jumped out at me on the gsnetx.org website is your organization's new statement of inclusivity. So, you know, it never occurred to me that the Girl Scouts would need to make such a formal statement, but then I read it and you know, I'm moved by it and what it stands for. So will you share that with our listeners now?
Jennifer Bartkowski 33:14
I'd be honored to. So Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas is proud to be part of an organization that has a 100 year plus history of being welcoming and inclusive. Our policies of inclusion align with those of our national organization Girl Scouts of the USA. We value diversity and inclusivity and do not discriminate or recruit on the basis of race, color, religion, ethnicity, national origin, citizenship, age, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, socioeconomic status, physical or developmental ability, nor any other category protected by applicable state, federal or local law. Through our programming, the Girl Scout leadership experience, girls develop skills to advance diversity and promote tolerance in the 21st century. We are committed to understanding similarities and differences, building relationships, and promoting a dialogue of acceptance and respect. Each individual involved must uphold the tenet that Girl Scouting is for all girls.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 33:44
Marsha Clark 34:09
I do, too. So speaking about demographics, you know, in some things that I read talk about, let's just say, there are families that are single parent lead and the parent may be having to work two jobs and so doesn't have the ability to bring children to meetings or get them to the STEM camp or whatever. How does all of that work? How do you support that aspect of our communities?
Jennifer Bartkowski 34:33
So about 25% of our girl scouts here in Northeast Texas are served through what we call community partnerships. And so we go into schools and we provide in school and after school programming so that takes away the financial concerns because we actually pay for that. Corporate donors pay for a lot of that, individual donors, takes away their transportation issue because it's at school and it takes away the volunteer issue because we actually pay for a individual to lead those troop meetings and to give them the opportunity to be a Girl Scout. We all also provide opportunities for the older girls to do college visits. The girls get to go to camp during spring break. And we have financial assistance for all kinds of other activities. So that's a critical component. 25% of our girls are served through that program. We also have a Girl Scout Academy, which partners with schools so the teachers become the leaders and every girl in those schools gets to be a Girl Scout, which is a pretty significant opportunity. And those schools use our STEM Center of Excellence as a field trip location. But part of this incubator lab that I'm talking about for the future is going to look at all of those in other ways. We have girls who are Girl Scouts alone, so they're called Juliettes'. They're not part of troops. We have clubs around certain things like we have a space science club, we have a skateboarding club. So there's all these different ways for girls to participate in Girl Scouting that we're going to be exploring to find out what makes the most sense in which communities.
Marsha Clark 35:49
So what I'm connecting to is when you said we did the further study that the programming was solid but how we delivered it was where you needed work, going to the girls rather than requiring the girls to come someplace else that required parental or some adult form of transportation. I love that.
Jennifer Bartkowski 36:06
So one of the pillars of our strategy work is reimagine our spaces. And that is really looking at our spaces to see what makes sense for girls. But also it's thinking about mobility. Do we bring girls to Girl Scouting or do we bring Girl Scouting to girls or do we do all those things, right? And that's really helping us to think through the future. It's forcing us to think about what in community means and how do we be in community for girls in different communities? So it's a very interesting time.
Marsha Clark 36:31
Well, I also think about we spoke a couple of episodes ago about abundance mentality. So I'm thinking about the abundance of, we have space camps, we have skateboarding, we have sewing, we have cooking, we have leadership. Well, I mean, that's amazing!
Jennifer Bartkowski 36:36
So I love that you said that, because one of our cultural shifts that we're making as an organization is going from a place of scarcity to a place of abundance. Because, you know, budgets are just choices, right? And what I need my staff to really understand is that we want to do the best things for girls. And we're a nonprofit so we tend to be in that scarcity mindset. But you know, what, we're a strong nonprofit. And we have great partners in this community. And all we have to do is ask, and they they come running to give us opportunities, to give an access to things that we don't otherwise have.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 37:17
And you're an over a century old established brand that everyone loves. (Yeah, that's true.) Everyone loves because they pop them in their mouth, you know, every year. Not the Girl Scouts, the cookies. So, yeah, so what impact... I'm really curious about this one, Jennifer. What impact did it have on the Girl Scouts when the Boy Scouts opened their doors to girls a few years ago?
Jennifer Bartkowski 37:44
You know, I was disappointed that the Boy Scouts wanted to also serve girls because there's great value in a single gender space, as you well know, Marsha. Our girls need...
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 37:54
For both genders.
Jennifer Bartkowski 37:54
For both the genders, actually. You know, girls definitely develop confidence better in a girl only space. And quite honestly, what I often hear about boys is when they have girls in the mix, they stop paying attention. And girls tend to take the leadership positions in those Boy Scout meetings. But anyway, we really didn't see a significant impact in our membership when that happened. And quite honestly, I kind of wanted to own that. So if a girl finds that Boy Scouts is the best place for her, that's on us. Like we should be looking harder at what we're delivering and what we're providing in terms of programming and how we deliver it. And so it actually motivated me to take a deeper look inside, which was part of the strategy work and really see, is there something we're not offering? Or is there something we need to be bolder about? Or is there more adventure that needs to be available? Like what is it that we need to be doing to make sure that Girl Scouts and that girl only environment that's girl led, hands on, collaborative learning which is how girls learn and lead best, is right for our girls.
Marsha Clark 38:47
So you know, I do some work with the Boy Scouts. And I remember when all this was going on. And so much of it was that parents who just with a limited amount of time, did not get the boys to the Boy Scouts and the girls to the Girl Scouts. So if they could all go to the same place together, that was a big driver of what the Boy Scouts were doing. With the way that you've addressed that by bringing Girl Scouting to the girls and not requiring the parents or the girls to go to scouting, I mean, that seems that I can imagine that that's a part of why you didn't see a decline in the participation in the roles of Girl Scouts.
Jennifer Bartkowski 39:21
Yeah, I think it was that. I think we needed to elevate our story and our value proposition. Why do you want to take the time to take a girl to a girl only space?
Marsha Clark 39:29
And the currency of your programming now because there's a bit, there's a lot of stories out there about it being outdated. And even us doing this is to let people know differently.
Jennifer Bartkowski 39:38
That's right. And, you know, it's interesting once we opened the STEM Center of Excellence, and we took that big, bold vision of being you know, we're gonna change the workforce pipeline for North Texas. People started to pay different attention to us because all of a sudden, we weren't just cookies, camps and crafts, even though I'm very proud of our cookie program and our camp program and crafts and our DIY and all of that. Girls want that stuff. But once we did the STEM Center of Excellence and we started bringing these experts around the table and we became sort of a part of the STEM ecosystem in this community, all of a sudden people were like, wait a minute, this is a different kind of Girl Scouts than I thought. And that gave us the credibility to do the mental health work and to talk about some of the other things that we've been doing in a way that we had never been able to before. So I feel like in this community, probably more than in most communities across the country, we have a relevancy that resonates with the community is as large.
Marsha Clark 40:26
Well, and I want to say, too, I don't know where your donors, your private donors, or even your company donors, where all those, I'm sure there's lots of them, and they fit every profile. But one of the things that I'm seeing in the work that I do in corporate America is men are getting more engaged and involved in those kinds of things with their children, whether it be yes, I'm taking off at four o'clock to watch my son's soccer game or my daughter's volleyball game or whatever. And if they're willing and see the benefit of those kinds of things, it seems to me if they're writing corporate checks, they're more likely to do that.
Jennifer Bartkowski 41:00
That is absolutely right. I mean, the world has changed and I think so much for the better. This funny little side story, whenever we renovate camps we really think about the men because the 1912 men were not going to camp with their daughters, but in 2022 they are, and we have to have a place for them to sleep. And you know, they'd be thinking about that broader interest in girls. I absolutely agree. And then in the corporate world, there's much more influence of women. But men want to be a part of their children's lives and they want their daughter to be strong and confident and powerful. And I think that's only going to help us going forward.
Marsha Clark 41:33
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 41:33
So I want to go a little bit deeper on this $15 million STEM Center of Excellence. Will you give us some more details about that program?
Jennifer Bartkowski 41:42
Sure. So in 2011, we were doing a property master plan and thinking about all of our camps. We decided to focus on Camp Whispering Cedars in southwest Dallas, and we did it for three reasons. First was proximity. It's in the city of Dallas, it's 20 minutes south of downtown Dallas, easy access for our girls both around the metroplex, but also the non girls in southern Dallas, who didn't have access to those outdoor spaces. The second reason is, it's an outdoor, ungroomed space. Here in North Texas, we have amazing STEM spaces - the Arboretum, the Zoo, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. But this is an outdoor, ungroomed space so you can do robotics, and rocketry and drones and all kinds of stuff there. And this is the first generation of kids to grow up almost entirely indoors. So getting girls into the outdoors is a critical priority for us. And post COVID I don't have to explain that as much as I did pre COVID. So that was important. But the main reason why we looked at the STEM center differently was because Texas Instruments came to us in 2011, and said, look, we've got a crisis on our hands. There are not enough engineers in this community to hire. You have all the girls. Can you make them all become engineers? And we said, well, maybe we can. And in fact, we've been delivering STEM programming for over 100 years, but we were they were asking us to create a pipeline. And actually, instead of just letting girls dip their toe into STEM, get them excited enough to stick with it. And so that's what we did and they gave us that first year $25,000, a couple of engineers. We created the first engineering patch in the country, and that year 8,500 girls earned that patch. And we were like, "Oh, well, we're onto something here." And so it was then that we decided to create a living laboratory where girls could explore science, technology, engineering, and math programs, activities and careers. The grand opening was in 2018. We were going to raise 13 million, we raised 15 million, we are still raising money for it. We have a 40 person Executive Advisory Committee of corporate executives and nonprofit leaders and universities and school districts who are telling us what we need to focus on. AI is the big focus next. They want girls to get into these spaces. One of my favorite things about this work that we're doing right now is our friends at Ericsson are truly committed to this partnership and this pipeline. And so they invest in Girl Scouts, because you know, you have to start early, but then they choose a couple of Girl Scouts who earn their gold award with a STEM project. They give them a scholarship, a paid internship and ultimately want to hire them. And they mentor them through college. Because I always say, you know, Girl Scouts focuses on K through 12. But women drop out of college STEM courses at high rates. And then women drop out of STEM careers at high rates. So I can only, I'll take K through 12 but somebody else has to manage the rest. We're starting to see is that there's a true commitment to that pipeline.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 44:30
That's, that's incredible. So if I'm listening to the show today, and if I had a daughter, I would be like running to the signup form, you know, on your website. But I'm guessing that the girls have to be a part of Girl Scouts in order to have access to these resources like the STEM program, right?
Jennifer Bartkowski 44:49
Well, if there's a girl out there who's not a part of Girl Scouts, all she has to do to go to camp is pay the $25 membership fee and then she has access to all that.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 44:57
Wow. Wow. Okay.
Marsha Clark 44:58
So I want to talk a little bit more about ways people can get involved with the Girl Scouts here at the end of this episode, but before we get started, I want to touch on an important message that I've heard you share in the past few months about transformation. And you've been very transparent and authentic about your own personal leadership transformation and growth, and how important it is to start within, that inside out starts with me, before trying to significantly change an organization. So what is the connection for you, between individual leadership transformation and organizational change, because I think all of our listeners, no matter what world they live in, that's an important question.
Jennifer Bartkowski 45:40
Yeah. I have been on the biggest transformational journey of my leadership career over the last three or four years. I mean, certainly COVID launched us all into a very uncertain world, and where we had to learn new leadership skills to survive. I think the murder of George Floyd forced me to look differently at inclusion and equity and understand the privileged place that I sit in and what systemic racism looks like, and how I can contribute to solving some of those challenges. The division of this country and the world is forcing all of us to think differently about how we show up. And so I've been on this journey, I've been reading and listening to podcasts, to you, Marsha, and to others, and actually doing a personal deep dive into what this means for me. I have said several times that the leader I was pre COVID, which was the right leader for Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas, is not the right leader for Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas now, and I sort of knew that and maybe subconsciously. And so I had to shift and change to be the right person to lead this organization today. That has meant a lot of vulnerability, a lot of a real, I am a pretty authentic leader anyway, but I had to get deep into that authenticity and understand, for one thing, I don't know all the answers. And I have to surround myself by really smart people who can help us find those answers. But in many cases, there isn't an answer. We're actually sitting around and talking about it. And my staff hear me say this all the time, we're sitting right now deep in the muddy middle, the muddy middle and I don't know if we're exactly on the right track. But we're gonna have to try some things and fail. And we're gonna have to make some decisions, and they might not always be the best decision so we might have to course correct. And that in my 40's would have made me crazy. I probably couldn't have handled that. But now in my 50's, I'm like, "Alright, let's do it." I'm grateful my board trust me, my staff trust me and I'm in an environment that allows us to do that. One of the things that changed as my leadership journey changes, we've been a pretty hierarchical leadership model. We've shifted to a more distributed leadership model and dissenting voices are now welcome. And I'm inviting them in and asking them to be a part of the conversation, because the best decisions are going to be with all of us than just one of us.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 47:52
Yeah, yeah. Well, you mentioned Deloitte earlier as one of your partners who helped be instrumental in transformation. And I'm seeing here in the notes that you or at least the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas went through Marsha's CCC Program, or not Marsha's CCC Program, but it was birthed through Marsha. So talk about that a little bit.
Jennifer Bartkowski 48:14
Yeah, well, first, you all used some of our spaces for the CCC Program so we were honored to have you there. And we got a lot of mutual benefit from that arrangement. But I got to go through the CCC Program. I think I was in the inaugural class and it was fantastic. And several of my staff have now been through it. And it's just part of our leadership commitment to our staff to make sure that there's someone, we try to have someone in every one of your classes as much as we can because I've got some high potential women in my organization who just need to get in touch with their own confidence and self image and self esteem. And I think you all deliver that really, really well. And that is part of our commitment to our staff right now. So I'm grateful for that program.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 48:54
You've got a great plan. You've got a great team, great partners. As you're continuing to move the organization forward, what are the biggest challenges that are going on for you right now?
Jennifer Bartkowski 49:06
Well, I think one big challenge that sticks with Girl Scouts is telling our story and helping people really understand the value of Girl Scouting. I've said it and I'll say it again. We're not just cookies, camps and crafts, which does not sound super relevant. We are actually what your daughter needs right now. Again, and again, we cannot depend on schools to provide girls everything they need. We have to provide them the additional support and social emotional learning and I'm watching my own daughter and other girls who didn't practice social and emotional learning for two years and it's having a profound effect of how and how they show up in the world. So that just goes to show that if we don't invest in social and emotional learning and character building and all those things, we aren't going to have the generation of leaders that we need. So storytelling is one. Two is the uncertainty of the world. You know, as we look ahead and a potential recession and war and inflation, you know, managing our expenses and all of that kind of stuff and really even knowing, you know what's coming next is hard. That is hard. It's hard for leaders. I'm having to embrace the unknown because there's no way, no one knows anything right now, like, there's no certainty out there. And then finally, it's kind of tactical, but gosh, hiring is hard in this market, and the labor market has driven up salaries. And we're having to figure out how to balance that, how to retain our employees, how to be fair and pay equitably, and how to attract people to our organization. We have so many positions that are open, and they're open for a long time because the world has changed. And that impacts whether or not we can deliver on our services to girls. So those are some of the things. I mean, there are other challenges that we're facing, but those are the ones that keep me up at night.
Marsha Clark 50:38
But you know, this idea of telling your story, women learn through relationship and women learn through stories. So I mean, I get that one, loud and clear. And then the uncertainty of the world. One of the things that is one of the most sought after competencies in the world of leaders and executives is dealing with ambiguity. And when I hear you talk about all that uncertainty, that's ambiguity, not black and white. And, you know, this idea of any one of us having all the answers or the predictive capabilities to nail it is long gone. And even the the market, it will continue to change. But I think if you do the first two, if you deal with that ambiguity, and you tell your story, that hopefully that is a an attraction, like a magnet, that's going to bring people to you.
Jennifer Bartkowski 51:25
And I hope this investment in our staff and our processes and our resources and our spaces, I hope that attracts people to us as well, and then ultimately attracts the community to us, because we are good place to work. We care about our people and we are presenting our best version of ourselves to the community.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 51:40
Well, so I'm going to just reiterate the websites again. If you're looking for a career, I mean, obviously, listeners, if you're in transition and would like to consider the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas, go to girlscouts.org and or gsnetx.org and you know, check out what they're doing. If you're not looking for a career, that's fine, too, but look for your daughter, look for your best friend's daughter, (your niece, your goddaughter, the little girl down the street, whatever it may be.) Exactly. So, Jennifer, anything else to add to that?
Jennifer Bartkowski 52:20
Yeah. No this is, I mean, I keep saying it but I can't think of a time where girls needed Girl Scouts more than right now. It is a crazy world out there. It's an ambiguous world out there. It is an uncertain world out there. And girls need a place of belonging, a place of connection, a place that they feel safe. They need the mentorship of an adult volunteer and they need programs that help them build that courage, confidence and character. So now is the best time to sign up to be a Girl Scout and make sure that your daughter can be the best version of herself and reach her full potential.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 52:51
Marsha Clark 52:51
And I would say to the mothers out there, it's much like you say your staff has to do their own work before they can be there for the girls. Parents have to do their own work before they can be their best selves to the girls. The teachers. And I look at this, and I think you said you're like the fourth leg of the stool is when you look at family, not everybody has it stable there. Schools, it's all over the place. Places of worship, that's not always everything that you need. And then Girl Scouts. And so if all of those places can partner, can work together, can reinforce each other's messages, the girls can can see the consistency of that and it gets reinforced. And dare I say those neural pathways in our brains are getting lain that we can rely on for the rest of our lives.
Jennifer Bartkowski 53:40
Yeah, with the girl at the center, I think it can be transformational for her. And that's, you know, Marsha, you know this. I believe that this world needs better leaders. And part of what we are doing is creating the next generation of leaders. We need to invest in them now so that when they come out of their growing up years and they're out in the world, that they're leaving our schools and our communities and our governments and our corporations in the best way, and I just want that for our girls, because I want that for our communities.
Marsha Clark 54:08
I'm with you. I'm with you!
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 54:10
Marsha Clark 54:10
Seats at tables where decisions are being made.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 54:13
Jennifer, thank you so much for being with us today. Marsha, any final thoughts, takeaways that you want to highlight as we wrap up?
Marsha Clark 54:20
Well, you know, again, Jennifer, thank you very much for joining us today. As an educational podcast, I've said this now several times, I learn as much when we have guest speakers as any of our listeners are learning along the way. And I love the incredible work that you and your team are doing to really support and encourage and enable the development of girls into these strong, powerful, authentic leaders for the future. And you know, you're a partner in another sense and I'll be asked the question fewer times "Where were you when I was younger?" because you're working on that and you're making it happen so that girls can enter adulthood prepared with authentic leadership skills, tools and experiences. So I'm really inspired, encouraged and one of your biggest supporters, and we'll help you in any way we can.
Jennifer Bartkowski 55:06
Thank you so much. It was an honor to be here with you, Marsha. You are a hero for me. We're all in this together.
Marsha Clark 55:13
Thank you. And we're all in this together.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 55:14
I love that. Well, thank you, listeners for joining us today on this journey of authentic, powerful leadership. Please continue to download, subscribe and share this podcast. Share this podcast with a mom who maybe needs a little bit of extra help and her daughter would love to be a part of this program. So let people know about the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas. And visit Marsha's website at marshaclarkandassociates.com for links to all of everything that is going on in Marsha's world, her email, newsletter and her book, "Embracing Your Power."
Marsha Clark 55:50
Well, and I think you know, your entire program could be Embracing Your Power. But you know, I often say we have to first acknowledge that we have power, then we have to understand what that power is, then we can begin to embrace it. And you're in the business of helping girls acknowledge that they have a lot of power, or even holding on to the power that they naturally think they have that then gets conditioned out of them by all those life events. So thanks to all our listeners. Thanks to you again, Jennifer. Thank you, Wendi, for always guiding us and keeping us on track. And you know, as you think about our future, you know, there is a pay it forward aspect of this. In order to pay it forward, we have to be strong, and I want that message to come through loud and clear. And we can be stronger when there are women supporting women and girls. And one of my hashtags is value women and girls and in the acknowledgement of my book, I want my grandchildren to grow up in a world where girls and women are valued. And we're both on this journey together, Jennifer, and so let's go do this. And "Here's to women supporting women!"
Transcribed by https://otter.ai