BEDFORD — Only 3.2 percent of CEOs of publicly traded companies are women, and the Girl Scouts of the United States of America is striving to show girls they can break the barrier, be ambitious and fulfill their leadership potential.
That message was the focus of the second annual "ToGetHerThere" campaign luncheon and fundraiser at the Manchester Country Club on Friday, with more than 300 professional women and men, Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains' council staff, Girl Scouts and leaders attending. The goal of the ToGetHerThere campaign is to create gender-balanced leadership across all professional fields.
Girls lack role models and mentors, said Susan Donnelly, president of the Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains, and because of the lack of support, bullying and the use of the word "bossy," girls are shying away from aspiring to become future career leaders.
"We cannot afford to lose any more women in career leadership," said Donnelly, who also served as a pediatric nurse and senior clinical quality specialist at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.
Linda Stewart Dalianis, the 35th New Hampshire Supreme Court Chief Justice, is one woman who has broken through the gender barrier.
Dalianis, the guest speaker at the event, said as a young girl she wanted to be a veterinarian, but studied journalism in college. She decided to pursue a career in law after her father needed a business lawyer.
Dalianis said she is proud of her accomplishments. She is the first female member of the state Supreme Court, the first female justice to be appointed to the Supreme Court and the court's first female chief justice.
"In my opinion, the best thing about firsts is that they eventually give way to the familiar — the point in time when you know that women are truly making progress, when the playing field feels almost level. The current generation of girls and young women who fill the ranks of Girl Scout troops here in New Hampshire and Vermont have grown up being used to seeing women as judges."
Dalianis said many women serve in the state's judicial branch. Dalianis shares the Supreme Court bench with three men and Associate Judge Carol Ann Conboy, 13 women are circuit court judges, Chief Justice of the Superior Court Tina Nadeau and five other women preside over county court house trials, and the president of the New Hampshire Bar Association is Jaye Rancourt.
She said girls have also known women as U.S. senators, governors in both states, the speaker of the House, attorney general, and women who have traveled into space.
"Ever since astronaut Sally Ride, the sky is no limit for women. Our teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe, as it happens, my best childhood friend, reinforced that lesson as well," said Dalianis. Dalianis was a Brownie and a Girl Scout and knows how Scouting can help a girl build five lifelong skills.
"Goal setting, decision-making, money management, people skills and business ethics," said Dalianis. "When a girl learns these skills, she's poised for success in her career — whatever path she chooses, whether that's business, finance, medicine, education, athletics or the law."
Those skills are geared toward Girl Scouts such as Julia Krause of Bow Troop 22472, the daughter of David and Karen Krause. Julia is one of several Scouts featured on a public service announcement that was shown at the luncheon.
Julia also spoke at the event about Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girls Scouts of the USA. Julia said her favorite thing about Scouting is "raising money to go on our field trips and making the public service announcement."
"I was happy, scared and nervous at the same time, but at the end I was much more confident and we nailed it," said Julia about making the video.
Dalianis said she applauds ToGetHerThere and the women who support the initiative to help girls a head start in becoming leaders.
"Women who understand the need to be mentors and role models, so girls have a road map to reach their potential as future leaders. Whether it's the boardroom or the courtroom, we're still looking for that level playing field, and with it the ability to bring our special talents and insights to a chosen profession."
For more information about the initiative, visit girlscoutsgwm.org.