The Boy Scouts of America, in its continued effort to appeal to girls, announced on Wednesday that it would drop the “Boy” from its namesake program next February. The century-old organization also said that it would start welcoming older girls, opening a door for them to earn the organization’s highest rank of Eagle Scout.
The Boy Scouts, which accepts children 11 to 17 years old, will become Scouts BSA. The change was announced as part of the organization’s new Scout Me In marketing campaign, which features girls and boys.
“As we enter a new era for our organization, it is important that all youth can see themselves in scouting in every way possible,” Michael Surbaugh, the chief executive of the Boy Scouts of America, an umbrella organization that will retain its name, said in a statement. “That is why it is important that the name for our scouting program for older youth remain consistent with the single name approach used for the Cub Scouts.”
This summer, Cub Scouts, for children 7 to 10 years old, will welcome girls in the first wave of the organization’s push for inclusivity, which was announced in October after the Boy Scouts of America directors voted unanimously for expansion. More than 3,000 girls have enrolled in the Cub Scouts so far. At the time, the organization hinted that girls would eventually be welcomed at all levels.
Effie Delimarkos, a spokeswoman for the Boy Scouts of America, said on Wednesday that the decision to welcome girls came after years of receiving requests from families and girls.
The Boy Scouts of America may also be hoping to buoy its slumping membership. On Wednesday, the organization said it had about 1.25 million Cub Scouts and over 800,000 Boy Scouts in nearly 100,000 units across the United States. At its peak in the 1970s, the Boy Scouts of America, incorporated in 1910, had closer to five million members.
The announcement drew a muted response from the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A., a departure from its previous statements that revealed that the once-amicable relationship between the two organizations had splintered.
Last summer, the president of the Girl Scouts accused the Boy Scouts of America of trying to undermine the organization through a “covert campaign to recruit girls.”
“I formally request that your organization stay focused on serving the 90 percent of American boys not currently participating in Boy Scouts,” Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, the president of the Girl Scouts, wrote at the time to her counterpart, Randall Stephenson of the Boy Scouts.
In October, Girl Scouts leaders said they felt “blindsided” by the announcement that the Boy Scouts of America was officially opening its doors to girls.
But in a statement on Wednesday, Sylvia Acevedo, the chief executive of the Girl Scouts, did not stoke the flames. Instead she emphasized that the Girl Scouts offered girls the chance to be involved in activities traditionally associated with the Boy Scouts, like outdoor activities, and prepared girls for careers in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, math), in which there is a large gender gap.
The Girl Scouts is “dedicated to building that critical STEM work force pipeline that businesses and communities across the country are looking for,” Ms. Acevedo said. “Girls are our country’s great untapped resource and are the key to our nation’s competitive advantage in the new digital economy we’re living in. They’ll be the drivers and the designers of our industries of the future, filling and creating jobs that don’t even exist yet.”
Ms. Delimarkos said Wednesday that the Boy Scouts also had a STEM program, which it has been rolling out across the country. It will also be available for both boys and girls.
In recent years, the Boy Scouts of America has significantly loosened its membership requirements, announcing in January 2017 that it would accept transgender members. In 2013, the group lifted a ban on openly gay members, and in 2015, it stopped barring gay scout leaders.