By Angela Dorn
Former Girl Scout and long time Girl Scout Board member, Interim CEO Judith Batty, is the first Black woman to lead the Girl Scouts USA.
The Girls Scouts are an American institution. Millions of women in the USA were Girl Scouts and have fond memories of this formative experience. While many of us remember camping and selling cookies, the Girl Scouts are about far more than either one of these two things. The organization’s true strength is its time tested one-of -a-kind leadership development program for girls, which has proven results. Being a Girl Scout helps girls learn how to take the lead — in their own lives and in the world. Is it any wonder that many women have encouraged their daughters to join the Girl Scouts so that they too can experience the benefits of scouting? Today, over 2.5 million girls in the U.S.A. are Girl Scouts.
The Girl Scouts are now under new leadership. Former Girl Scout Judith Batty made history this week, by becoming the first Black CEO of Girl Scouts of the United States of America (GSUSA). Daughter of a Girl Scout and Troop Leader, Batty began as a Brownie with her local Nassau County Council in New York and continued scouting through high school. Long after her scouting days were over, Judith remained involved with the Scouts, as a troop leader and eventually National Board Member.
Batty has been a member of the Girl Scouts’ National Board since 2014, where she first served as Executive Committee member and International Commissioner. As International Commissioner she coordinated GSUSA’s efforts and policies with Girl Scouts and Councils around the world. Batty also led the Board Task Force that re-imagined the Girl Scout cookie program. This critical work put Girl Scouts on firmer financial footing, which is helping them to this day. Most recently Judith co-led a Board Task Force to develop strategic initiatives to allow the Girl Scouts to survive and even thrive through the Covid-19 pandemic, so that GSUSA can continue to effectively support Girl Scouts around the country.
Judith was appointed interim CEO, after Sylvia Acevedo announced her departure from GSUSA.
GSUSA Board Chair Kathy Hannan has said, “We are confident that Judith’s experience makes her uniquely qualified to help the Girl Scouts transition into our next chapter and continue to serve our enduring mission as an inclusive, supportive organization that stands ready to help every girl learn and thrive.”
Leadership During A National Crisis: Batty Is Committed To Ensuring That GSUSA Remains An Inclusive Space For All Girls
Batty has emphasized her core commitment to upholding the organization’s more than 100-year legacy as “welcoming and inclusive space for every girl.”
“As families across the country contend with so much uncertainty and upheaval,” said Batty, “I am committed to ensuring that the Girl Scouts continues to offer shelter in the storm — a place where all our girls feel welcome, can find community, solidarity, leadership opportunities, and fun, despite the challenging moment we are all collectively living through.”
Batty recognizes that Girl Scouts has a special role in building girls self esteem and leadership skills, even in today’s extraordinary times. “Research shows that girls learn best in an all-girl, girl friendly environment. Girl Scouts is a place where a girl will practice different skills, explore her potential, take on leadership positions — and even feel allowed to fail, dust herself off, get up, and try again,” said Batty.
From Corporate Trailblazer To GSUSA Trailblazer
Batty is not new to the role of trailblazer. She earned her law degree from New York University. As reported in an interview with BlackHer, she then spent almost 30 years as deal lawyer, strategic counsel, and corporate executive at ExxonMobil. At ExxonMobil, Batty became the first woman and first Black person to serve as General Counsel of the ExxonMobil affiliate in Japan. Aside from leading ExxonMobil’s legal work on international business deals, Batty advanced the corporation’s work to bolster STEM education and empower women and girls around the world.
Judith Batty’s ascension to the top spot at Girl Scout’s USA shows that corporate leaders can make important contributions to the nonprofit sector, especially when they understand and believe in the cause they are supporting. Batty’s rise also provides Girl Scouts (and other girls) all over the U.S.A. with an accomplished new leader to look up to. Just as Kamala Harris is an inspiration to future politicians, Batty are an inspiration to tens of thousands of Black girl scouts, and to the millions of girls nationwide who aspire to be lawyers, nonprofit and business leaders, and leaders of all kinds.