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Investing in Girls, with Barbara Murphy Warrington

Investing in Girls, with Barbara Murphy Warrington

Episode 28: Investing in Girls, with Barbara Murphy Warrington

If you thought the Girl Scouts are only about cookies, think again. Barbara Murphy Warrington is the CEO of the Girl Scouts of Greater New York. She’s moved back and forth from the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors, with some stops along the way in entrepreneurship and in the public sector, but her focus has always been on helping organizations with their leadership development. In this episode, Barbara shares her career journey, the importance of role models, some of the programs the Girl Scouts are working on, and more.

Episode Transcript

00:13 Kristy Wallace: Hello and welcome to the Ellevate Podcast. This is Kristy Wallace and I am joined today by Maricella Herrera. Hi.

00:20 Maricella Herrera: Hello. I'm trying to mimic your hello, it was very like, "Hello."

00:25 KW: Hello. Hello. [chuckle] I've been talking all day so my voice is not quite at its peak performance but today we have Barbara Murphy-Warrington, who is the CEO of the Girl Scouts of Greater New York City. I mean you wanna talk about someone who is having an impact and kicking butts and taking names, it's Barbara.

00:47 MH: Oh yeah.

00:48 KW: I mean what she is doing for girls in New York City and for the Girl Scouts, and two I mean, if you think of the Girl Scouts only as cookies, you're missing out on a lot cause they're doing some great things.

01:00 MH: But the cookies are amazing.

01:00 KW: The cookies are amazing. We're not gonna... We will not undersell the cookies but there's a lot more to it.

01:06 MH: I agree, I agree, I agree. But they're also coming out with a s'mores cookie.

01:10 KW: What? I did not know that. How did, what... Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? That's exciting!

01:15 MH: Nope. S'mores cookie.

01:17 KW: Alright s'mores... Although the Caramel deLites are my favorites.

01:21 MH: No, sorry. Sorry. I don't even know what their name are.

01:25 KW: Shortbread? Peanut Butter? Oatmeal?

01:29 MH: Samoas.

01:29 KW: That's the Caramel deLites, they're the same thing.

01:31 MH: What?

01:32 KW: They're called different things in different regions.

01:34 MH: I didn't know that.

01:35 KW: Yeah. Yeah. There's two different bakers and they're called different things. You will hear all about this in the podcast. I'm gonna stop giving away the secrets. There's good stuff coming but first, before we get there, we wanna hear about what kind of non-profits our members like to support. I support the Girl Scouts. You'll hear a little bit about my personal story during the next few minutes during the podcast, but what about our members, what are they supporting?

02:03 MH: Yeah, absolutely. Not surprising, 30% of our members support non-profits in girl's education. I mean we are a very passionate bunch when it comes to advancing girls and women.

02:15 KW: We believe in the power of education.

02:16 MH: Absolutely. 24% support non-profits that deal with human rights. 14% animal rights and 11% environmental causes. There's a host of other stuff they do, I know that about 78% of our members either volunteer or are involved in some sort of non-profit, either as part of their board, their advisers, or supporters and it's a very caring group.

02:44 KW: It is. Yeah, I love our members. So I just have to make a little call out right now to Katharine Heller who's the producer of our podcast. If all of you like listening to us every week, it is because of Katharine and her magic fairy dust that she sprinkles on all of this, she just texting me while we were talking to tell me that the new Girl Scout s'mores cookie captures the adventurous spirit, love of the outdoors and feeling of community that is synonymous with the Girl Scouts.

03:14 MH: I love that.

03:15 KW: Yeah. So thank you Katharine for your contribution to today's intro.


03:19 MH: Besides the fact of cutting everything out and making us sound smart.

03:23 KW: Yes, exactly.


03:25 MH: That and s'mores.

03:27 KW: And without further ado, we are going to get to my conversation with Barbara Murphy-Warrington.


03:47 KW: Today, I'm honored to have Barbara Murphy-Warrington, who's the CEO of the Girl Scouts of Greater New York and someone I've worked with quite a bit over the past few years. So, welcome Barbara to the Ellevate Podcast.

04:00 Barbara Murphy-Warrington: Kristy, thank you. It's wonderful to be here in this extraordinary organization with an extraordinary Girl Scout.


04:06 KW: Thank you. We always start off the podcast asking our guests to share a little bit about just your background. What is your professional journey and how did you make it to where you are today? It's a great way for our listeners to see and to understand the various career paths and journeys that other women have taken to gain some inspiration from that. So, if you wouldn't mind sharing a little bit about your background.

04:30 BM: I'd be happy to. I'm trained as a lawyer and I practiced law for 15 years, first as a deputy attorney general for the state of New Jersey and then 10 years as resident council at the Ford Foundation. I left my legal career because during that period of time, I started to think about the issue of leadership. It's something I didn't learn in law school and I was seeing in my work, particularly at the Ford Foundation traveling around the world, how critical the issue of leadership is to not only effective organizations but effective societies. And so through my study of Peter Drucker and Frances Hesselbein, who was a very strong national CEO in the Girl Scout movement, I started my journey on leadership.

05:20 BM: I went into work with international not-for-profit or development organization's CARE USA which is a global organization operating in over 45 countries and there I was on the executive team and had my first experience working at the leadership team. And so I've moved from a back and forth between the not-for-profit world and the for-profit world and stopping on two occasions between the quasi-not-for-profit and public and working for New Jersey Transit as an attorney general. Also having my own management consulting firm, which I established and worked with different industries, primarily with the finance industry, on their leadership issues.

06:05 BM: So I've had a kind of a snaking back and forth sort of a career. It's all been around helping organizations focus on leadership and the role of leadership in transformation and change. And I've had some extraordinary role models along the way, both women and men, who provided examples for me as to what it takes to be successful, what it takes to live as a servant leader or a principled leader. Live from the inside out which is what we teach our girls to do in girl scouting. And so I was at an investment firm and shortly thereafter, I was recruited to be the CEO of Girl Scouts of Greater New York which has been the most extraordinary experience of my professional life.

06:55 KW: I love that and I love how diverse your background is because I think as leaders, you take something from each experience. Are you still learning how to be a leader?

07:09 BM: Oh my gosh, I think that's a life-long learning process. Those individuals like, Kristy who say, "I'm there," I don't think that they're very aware. And I think that that's what makes leadership so, so exciting because the different contexts that you step into generate different leadership challenges or perspectives, etcetera. And so as you continually walk through life, I think if you're a curious person and you like learning, you understand that leadership is a constantly evolving experience.

07:48 KW: I couldn't agree more. I'd learn something every day, sometimes the hard way. But I mean, I think it takes a good leader to be receptive to that, right?

07:58 BM: Absolutely.

08:00 KW: And be open to learning from each experience.

08:02 BM: Absolutely.

08:04 KW: We talked about how you ended up at the Girl Scouts, but why the Girl Scouts? What is it about the Girl Scouts that really spoke to you?

08:11 BM: Well I was a Brownie when I was growing up, and that was a long time ago. [chuckle] And my mother turned to Girl Scouts and the church to help her raise her five daughters. And at the time, Girl Scouts was probably all that we had to do other than school activities, but it was there that I started to build relationships and connections, understand the environment through the Cookie Program, which I wasn't very good at because I ate my product. [chuckle] And I tell girls, "Don't eat your product." There are many lessons that I was learning, didn't appreciate at the time, that I'm now calling upon. So when I got the call from a search firm about considering the CEO position for Girl Scouts, I say, "Who? [09:03] ____? Me? Are you kidding?" I look at my background and I didn't think that I had anything to offer. And then I went to the national Girl Scouts website and saw the rebranding of Girl Scouts describing it as a leadership development organization for girls and I realize, "Ah, I've been doing that all of these years." And it also talked about transformation and change, preparing girls to respond to the 20th and 21st century to be the leaders of tomorrow. I said, "Absolutely, that's work that I can do." So I was thrilled, thrilled.

09:42 KW: I was a Girl Scout through Cadet and we had a local mom in my community, she ran a million different troops and I... It's part of my childhood that I remember. I have a twin sister, I have a younger sister. We went to Camp Sacajawea in New Jersey, we did our badges, we did a lot of activities together. I actually was part of a program at the time called "Walk a Day in My Shoes" where I've shadowed a lawyer for day because I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. It was such a positive experience for me, being a Girl Scout because it really was community, it was education, it was positivity. And now, I see where it's evolved and where it's come and really an increased clarification around that leadership and programs to support that and I'm blown away. I cannot believe some of the things you're doing. It is so exciting.

10:41 BM: Well it's exciting and a privilege to do that work. But there's something you said I think is really important, and you mentioned that you had the opportunity to shadow a successful woman in the workplace. That's what we do today because we know that girls will learn best from role models or seeing women in the workplace being successful. People like Sallie Krawcheck who's just extraordinary. Girls having the opportunity to see women in positions of authority and responsibility, show them what's possible. It helps them to see what they can achieve and it helps them understand that, yes, there may be obstacles that I have to overcome but through this experience that I'm having, through seeing women have accomplished that, "I can do that." So yes, I've heard that story over and over again about how women today, when they were girls had the opportunity to see women in positions of authority and how inspirational that was.

11:48 KW: And it really is. My dad's a dentist, my mom's a nurse and so gaining access to what I aspired to be was not... I didn't have ready access to that. And through the Girl Scouts, I was able to really see that and I know you do quite a few programs with corporations in New York City...

12:06 BM: Yes, we do.

12:07 KW: Providing access to career paths and shadowing professionals and can you talk a little bit more about those programs?

12:13 BM: Yes we do, and we start as early as... So we serve over 29,000 girls in New York City that come from virtually every zip code of the city and 70% of the girls we serve, Kristy, come from low to moderate income family. So they have really substantial access issues. And so in serving girls from five to 17, we start as early as five years old. Through for example, our cookie program and getting corporations to partner with us in the delivery of our Cookie University where we bring mentors from the workplace in to work with girls to teach them about marketing, how to pitch their cookies, how to be accountable for their money and resources. How to then think about how they will invest their earnings either in a community project or in developing themselves. And so, we're creating opportunities very early for girls to have experiences with professionals from the workplace who are coming in, role modeling, and also coaching and working with them to learn skills.

13:26 KW: I have to tell you I have chills right now. Thinking about my girls having access to programs like that and this whole support network of professionals, men and women...

13:37 BM: Absolutely.

13:37 KW: Who want to help cultivate the future generation of female leaders and creating that pipeline and that relationship, sharing knowledge and skills, the world is gonna be a better place.

13:50 BM: Absolutely, absolutely. I have to say that we do the work with over 8,500 dedicated volunteers from across the city. This is women and men who are giving their precious time to work with our girls in troops or in short term programs or to take them to camp, etcetera. They're really investing in helping develop girls. Another program I think that you'd be interested in is our Girl Scout Leadership Institute which we launched about three, we're on our fourth year now and it's a program that's targeted to high school girls and a lot of people think that there aren't high school girls in girl scouting and there are. And 50 girls every year go into a 15-month leadership institute where they... And it's focused right now on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. And this summer, our girls were at the New York Hall of Science and then at NYU building a socially responsible app and a business which they then pitched at NYU to a number of micro-investors, social investors, businesswomen, businessmen, financiers, etcetera.

15:05 BM: And then through the school year, they'll go through exploring leadership in three areas: Leadership in the world, leadership in the community where they'll engage in a socially responsible community action project and hopefully, pursue the highest award in girl scouting and that's our gold award. So it's leadership in the world, leadership in the community and then in the workplace where they will be visiting a number of different workplaces taking perhaps their app that they developed this summer at the hall of science in to meet with women in the STEM arena to get further advice and coaching from that. So we did the leadership program starting with girls as early as five moving on up to a high school program like a Capstone program. Girl Scout Leadership Institute offering girls age-appropriate leadership opportunities along the way.

16:02 KW: What are some of the other results that you hope to see from these programs? How do you define success?

16:08 BM: So we're already seeing results. There are over 59 million living women in this country who were girl scouts and a huge percentage of the women-owned or women-led businesses, those women were girl scouts. Over 53% of the women in Congress today were girl scouts and I believe, don't hold me on this that the female astronauts who'd gone up into space were girl scouts. So we're seeing the impact of girl scouting through that. We're also, we look at research and we do a lot of research through our Girl Scout Research Institute. So our programs are evidence-based and we're trying to drive to certain results and the reason we're really focused on leadership or focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics in our program is what the research is telling us. So girls believe leadership is critically important.

17:12 BM: They are interested in it but only 21% of them believe that they can be effective leaders and too many girls think it's easy to follow. And so, we have instituted programs like the Girl Scout Leadership Institute to help girls understand that they can lead. And we're starting to see girls come out of those programs just totally turned around in terms of one, their understanding of leadership, two, the way that they can contribute and three, what they wanna do. We also know in the field of STEM that there are a dearth of women. 25% of the jobs that are held in STEM which is the fastest growing area in terms of economic sufficiency, 25% of those jobs are held by women.

18:02 BM: And so we've got to change that and we've set out through a number of different programs like our Robotics Program that we've been running for a number of years or a new program that were launching in a week which is Breaking the Code. We piloted it this summer. It's targeted to middle school girls in low-income communities, teaching them how to code. We're doing all those as sort of things to prepare... Understanding what the research says and believing that if we put in an intervention, if we create opportunity for the girls, the girls are gonna seize it. They're gonna seize it, they're be prepared and they're going to help to change those results.

18:43 KW: How are you working with girls on more of the current events that's happening in our world? Violence, sexual abuse. If it's the elections, there's so much happening that I feel like kids know, right? And they hear it. Is the Girl Scouts also working with girls on that level?

19:05 BM: Absolutely. There are different programs for girls at different ages and our Girl Scout Leadership Experience Program at the National level is tied to the Common Core Standards and 21st Century Standards. And there are components of those programs that help girls think about the issues in their community, the issues in their society and so they're encompassed in programs and structures we call "Journeys". And so, a little girl might think about what she sees happening maybe in her community around poverty or, etcetera. Whereas an older girl will take it to the UN to participate in a global conversation around poverty or what's happening to young girls and the absence of a opportunity for education.

19:58 BM: For example, last year at one of our girls in the Girl Scout Leadership Institute interviewed Malala when she was here to announce the premiere of her book. And our girl scout was there on the Red Carpet with Malala, interviewed her, asked her critical issues about what's driving you, interviewed her father and then did a blast out on social media. Tweeted, blogged about the experience. And then, I wrote an op-ed piece on behalf of the girls about the fact that girls in United States who might have access to education identify exactly with what Malala is saying and they stand with Malala and all girls around the world on education.

20:41 BM: So, you see that our girls, themselves, are living in the world. They have these issues, they bring them to us. They say, "We wanna address them." And they tackle them. Another area where the older girls actually get to tackle issues like genital mutilation. If you could imagine that. Or, lack of education, sexual abuse, child sex trafficking in the United States, in New York City. Those are topics that our girls, our older girls have taken up in their Gold Award project. Because that Gold Award is almost a 100-hour project focused on a change and a social issue that girls want to change. They develop the project plan, they lay out the communication plan, they do the research, they create a take action plan. These are things that you do in the workplace, and then they take action.

21:35 BM: And so they're identifying social issues that are near and dear to their heart and advocating around those issues, or doing things to actually bring about change. And so our girls are very aware. And we also, through our Girl Scout Leadership Program, are integrating community social issues in an age-appropriate way, from five to 17.

21:58 KW: So, Barbara I would love to hear a little bit about how you're working to expand the reach and the impact on girls in New York City.

22:07 BM: Thanks, Kristy. Usually in the past, we have been focused on the girls we serve, and girl scouting will continue to do that. But two years ago, our board adopted a new strategy and it was about being a thought leader on issues affecting girls in New York City. So going beyond those girls that we immediately serve, understanding the issues of girls in New York City. And there's a fair percentage of girls between five and 17 that live in poverty and being an advocate around those issues because we have credibility on those issues.

22:43 BM: So in the past year, we were invited by the Speaker of the City Council to join again, Women's Leadership Initiative where a number of philanthropic organizations, for-profits and city government came together to look at what were the issues of girls and women, particularly girls and women of color who are living in poverty. And what were recommendations that were gonna put forth to the City Council. I'm happy to let you know that we were invited to be part of that initiative and two of our team members were very responsible for helping shape the recommendations around leadership.

23:23 BM: Those recommendations were approved by the City Council. It was all about creating opportunities for girls to start to learn about leadership within the school curriculum, creating programs around leadership for girls, and for that matter, for boys in different places like in NYCHA housing, in detention centers, in community centers or in schools where girls can have exposure and an opportunity to experiment. With leadership, they don't have to be in girl scouting.

23:55 BM: And I'm happy to report to you that the City Council, joined with several major not-for-profits allocated $20 million to invest in a number of those recommendations. So we were able to share our research on what girls feel about leadership and how critical leadership is to particularly low-income girls achieving economic sufficiency, self-sufficiency when they become adults. And so those recommendations, our experience and knowledge, helped to shape and influence a very important agenda for this city. And I was very proud of our City Council speaker for initiating that effort. It's the first that we'd ever been engaged in in terms of advocating for the issues of girls beyond girl scouting.

24:43 KW: Giving a voice to a population that doesn't always have a voice.

24:48 BM: Absolutely.

24:49 KW: And through what you're doing in that work, helping to ensure a better future.

24:55 BM: Absolutely. It's our responsibility to do that, Kristy.

24:58 KW: Well, thank you for that.

25:00 BM: Thank you.


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