Anna Maria Chavez - Girl Scouts
Chief Executive Officer
Anna Maria Chávez was appointed chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of the USA on August 24, 2011. Prior to her appointment, she served as chief executive officer of the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas. Before joining the Girl Scout organization, Ms. Chávez served as deputy chief of staff for urban relations and community development for then-Governor of Arizona Janet Napolitano, the current U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security. Ms. Chávez holds a law degree from the University of Arizona and a bachelor’s degree in American history from Yale.
Why does STEM matter to your organization?
Girl Scouts of the USA is committed to ensuring that every girl has the opportunity to explore and build an interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The strength of our nation depends on increasing girls’ involvement in STEM, and in helping them to develop critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration skills that are so important in life and in becoming future STEM leaders. While the percentage of careers that require advanced STEM education increases, an alarmingly high percentage of girls lose interest in STEM subjects early in their development.
What is your organization doing about it?
Girl Scouts is the world's preeminent organization dedicated solely to girls and their development. For 100 years, Girl Scouts has offered experiential learning in a nurturing environment. Our national program portfolio threads STEM learning throughout our unique leadership journeys and innovative skill-building opportunities. Our girls explore and develop skills and qualities that will serve them all their lives creating future leaders in STEM. If the U.S. is to maintain its competitive advantage in the global economy, we need to ensure that our entire population of young people, especially girls, is educated in STEM fields.
Has your organization been successful at reaching its STEM goals?
By combining our girl-learning environment, our unique national program, our unparalleled delivery infrastructure, and our proven expertise in working with partners, we offer powerful STEM learning experiences for girls across all sectors, including girls in traditionally underserved and underrepresented communities. For example, programs such as Girl Scouts Forever Green, which encourages girls to lead their families, schools, and communities in improving the environment and protecting natural resources. Also, by reaching underserved girls, such as with the AT&T supported IMAGINE: Your STEM Future and Imagine Engineering funded by the National Science Foundation. Both programs offer girls from low-income and underserved communities the chance to experience STEM and plan for futures in STEM fields.
If you could have three wishes granted by the STEM genie, what would they be?
- The entertainment industry (film, television, publishing, etc.) would create compelling, exciting stories featuring characters who are scientists (and not necessarily scientists who are stopping a meteor from hitting Earth!) where most of those characters are women.
- The development of a robust nationwide mentoring system for girls in middle school (where they often lose interest in STEM) that could connect them to women in a variety of STEM fields. This would offer all girls the opportunity to be inspired and encouraged by women who have successfully pursued STEM careers.
- Creating a STEM resource access center at the national and/or council level that can provide training, mentoring and resources to all Girl Scouts as they pursue programming in STEM.
Beyond your organization, what one thing should be done now to help solve the STEM crisis?
Putting as much effort into supporting STEM students to “succeed” in college as it took into creating the pipeline and resources to get them into college. Designing the support structure and resources at the university level that help all types of STEM learners create a STEM identity.
According to the Girl Scout Research Institute study, Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, 74 percent of teen girls are interested in STEM subjects and the general field of study, and they are drawn by the creative and hands-on aspects of these subjects. Girls are also aware that gender barriers persist as 57 percent of all girls say that if they “went into a STEM career, they’d have to work harder than a man to be taken seriously.”