Girl Scouts has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, and we welcome and embrace girls of all abilities and backgrounds into our wonderful sisterhood.

Inclusion is at the core of who we are; it’s about being a sister to every Girl Scout and celebrating our unique strengths. Part of the important work you will do includes modeling friendship and kindness for your girls and showing them what it means to practice empathy. Through equal treatment, you can nurture an inclusive troop environment.

When scheduling, planning, and carrying out activities, carefully consider the needs of all girls involved, including school schedules, family needs, financial constraints, religious holidays, and the accessibility of appropriate transportation and meeting places. 


What is IDEA?

Girl Scouts is for all girls, and we use inclusion, diversity, equity, and access as the tools to ensure every girl feels welcomed and affirmed.

IDEA = Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access.

Inclusion is the sense that everyone belongs. In any environment, inclusivity means people from different backgrounds, identities, and abilities are not only are present, but also have a voice.  An inclusive setting honors everyone’s unique histories, cultures, and identities and is free from bias and discrimination.  Everyone feels as though their opinions are valued and they have fair access to opportunities.

Diversity: Simply put, diversity means difference. These differences may be visible or not, and include gender, ability, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, education, socioeconomic status, and more. In Girl Scouts, our membership is made up of a highly diverse group of girls, and we strive for our leadership to look this way, too, and have an awareness of why diversity is impactful!

Equity requires acknowledging that we don’t all start off in the same place. While equality means giving everyone the same things, equity means giving everyone what they need to be successful. This often means removing barriers and biases that disproportionately impact specific identities.

Access refers to the services, settings, and resources needed for a person to join and fully engage with Girl Scouts.  To ensure equity and inclusion, we must first ensure that our physical and virtual space, information, programming, and leadership roles can be accessed by all. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

How can we apply this to our work with Girl Scouts, using the Three Keys of Leadership?

Discover: When we give girls the opportunity to Discover their own histories, cultures, and identities, and those of their fellow sisters, we bring vibrancy to their own experience through appreciating diversity.

Connect: When we give girls the opportunity to Connect to diverse people and places in their communities, they can see role models who look like them and are able to learn about the experiences of others.

Take Action: After we give girls the opportunity to discover diverse histories, cultures, and identities and connect to the impact those have on a person’s experience in a community, girls begin to identify injustices and want to Take Action to make the world a better place.

For examples of how to bring the IDEA concepts into practice, review the examples provided in the gsLearn course, 499 IDEA for Volunteers.

Inclusive language

Let’s talk about some strategies you can use to make sure that the language you use includes everyone.

First, learn about gender neutrality and pronouns.

Default to gender neutral terms and pronouns that avoid specifying gender when it doesn’t need to be specified.

  • People of all genders do these jobs: firefighter, police officer, mail carrier. Try using these terms instead of “fireman, policeman, mailman.”
  • Address groups in gender neutral terms. Instead of “ladies and gentlemen,” or “girls” try saying: everyone, folks, honored guests, friends, kiddos, Girl Scouts
  • Pronouns: if you aren’t sure what pronouns to use, you can use the gender neutral “they.” For example: “They are bringing the food for the event”

Secondly, we can keep our shared humanity front and center by using people-first language. 

There are many ways that people-first language is used. When it comes to disabilities, describe what a person has and not who a person is.

  • Instead of “The autistic boy”… say: “the boy who has autism”
  • Instead of “She is disabled” or “She suffers from a disability”… say: “She has a disability”

When it comes to aspects of a person’s identity, labels are adjectives and not nouns. 

  • Instead of “A gay/ A transgender”… say: “a gay person/ a transgender person”

By prioritizing people’s identities as humans above any other characteristic they may have, we are showing that we respect and see their humanity.

For examples of how to bring the IDEA concepts into practice, review the examples provided in the gsLearn course, 499 IDEA for Volunteers.


Microaggressions are things we say that have a hurtful impact, even if we don’t intend to harm.  They are comments or questions that seem innocent, but stem from an assumption based on a stereotype or bias.  Microaggressions can apply to any characteristic for which a person is marginalized such as race, ethnicity, ability, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status or more.

Avoiding Microaggressions

Before you speak or make a comment on someone’s identity, consider your words. What are you assuming about this person, and what impact does this assumption have on their sense of belonging in a given environment?

Although we can all do our best to think before we speak and consider the context behind our words, mistakes do happen. If you believe you’ve said something that could be interpreted as a microaggression, acknowledge your error, apologize, and learn from it!

Addressing Microaggressions

There are times when you and your girls may experience or a witness a microaggression. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to responding to microaggressions, and many times it can depend on the context, and how safe you feel in a given situation. 

If the safety of you and your girls is at stake, it is best to walk away.

If you witness a microaggression, coming from girls or other adults, it is important to respond.  Responding is not meant to be punitive or unkind, but rather provide a learning opportunity and a chance to become a better sister to every Girl Scout.  The most effective way to respond is to take an assertive approach, which we will discuss on the next slide.

An assertive approach is one where you calmly point out the harm or ask a question to promote reflection. This can lead to more fluency in discussing diversity while avoiding blame in the process.

The following are some useful assertive responses:

  • “I know that’s not what you meant, but that could also mean…”
  • “What has your experience been that contributes to that idea?”
  • “Your use of the word ____ in that way is insulting to me (or people who are)…”
  • “That’s actually a stereotype.”
  • Model correct language in your response.
  • “Research suggests that…”

If a girl has experienced a microaggression, attending to her needs and safety comes first.  Anger and hurt are normal emotions to feel, and validating those emotions and experiences is the first step in helping her process the incident.

Do say phrases like: “I’m sorry that happened,” “How are you feeling?” “How can I help?”  Validate her experience and her feelings.  Though we cannot protect against every microaggression, we can be a safe refuge from them and provide support when they happen.  

Don’t say phrases like: “get over it,”  “it wasn’t that bad,” or “they didn’t mean it like that” When we invalidate feelings and experiences, we are sending the message that we aren’t a safe person to talk to and that Girl Scouts isn’t a safe place to be. 

The well-being of our girls is our top priority, so avoiding microaggressions and managing them as they occur is key to making sure all Girl Scouts feel safe.

For examples of how to bring the IDEA concepts into practice, review the examples provided in the gsLearn course, 499 IDEA for Volunteers.​​​​​​​

Appreciate, Don’t Appropriate

You might have heard the term “cultural appropriation”—but what exactly does it mean?

Cultural appropriation is the misuse of customs, practices, ideas, art, and more by a member of a different culture in a way that is disrespectful or inappropriate, does not give proper credit to the original creators, and/or for personal gain.  While the exchange and appreciation of cultural ideas and information is essential for a diverse worldview, appropriating customs for the benefit of personal entertainment, fashion, decoration, or profit can be damaging to cultures that have faced centuries of discrimination and oppression on the basis of their identities.

Cultural appreciation centers on learning about a culture through customs, practices, ideas, art and more.  It requires gaining knowledge about the culture you are sharing, and explanation of the cultural and historical roots of what you are appreciating.  Inviting experts to help with the activities, such as a Mexican chef cooking traditional Mexican food, will keep the focus on learning and appreciating culture, rather than taking from it.  

Cultural Appreciation/Appropriation Do’s and Don’ts

  • Do:
    • Encourage your girls to learn about and appreciate other cultures!
    • Provide background information to connect the activity to the culture it comes from
    • Incorporate cultural expertise with voices from the culture you are sharing through guest speakers, books, videos, or movies.
    • Ask questions! It’s okay to say that you don’t have the answers now, but that you’ll find out.
  • Don’t:
    • Use activities only for entertainment—although everything should be fun, it should also be educational.
    • Create activities around customs or practices that are considered sacred (i.e. the funeral/religious rites of any culture).
    • Support the profit of cultural appropriation by purchasing culturally ‘themed’ items from businesses outside of that culture

Why representation matters in Girl Scouts activities.

When it comes to race, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, gender, and more–representation matters! When girls see people who look like them or share characteristics with them represented in an activity or concept, they feel a sense of belonging and pride. When girls interact with and learn from people who are different from them, they broaden their perspectives and make meaningful connections.

For examples of how to bring the IDEA concepts into practice, review the examples provided in the gsLearn course, 499 IDEA for Volunteers.

Supporting Take Action Projects that Tackle Injustice

As girls learn about social injustices, many have created Take Action projects at all levels that have addressed inequities and injustice. Many of these projects have been impactful and empowering, embodying the Girl Scouts mission to build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.

However, when addressing injustice in Take Action projects, it is important to keep some things in mind. As with any activity, Take Action projects should be respectful and conscientious of how they are interacting with certain populations. Projects that seek to “save” or “help” a certain group of people may unintentionally promote negative perceptions of that population. Especially if the girl(s) creating the project is White, “white saviorism” can be perpetuated: where White people from Western countries attempt to “fix” the problems facing BIPOC communities and/or countries without understanding the population’s history, identity, or needs.

Girls and leaders can create Take Action projects that avoid these negative impacts by incorporating the voices and needs of the community the project is targeting. Take Action projects should adopt a “nothing about us, without us” (slogan stemming from the Disability Rights movement) vision in which participation and input from a population is essential. Girls should seek to be guided by the communities they’re hoping to impact with their project, rather than to rescue or save.

Before approving a Take Action project, confirm the following questions:

  • Is this project incorporating the voices, input, and histories of the community it hopes to impact?
  • Does the project avoid the language of saviorism, such as “save”, “rescue”, “help”, or “fix”?
  • Does this project avoid stereotyping and generalizations about a given group of people?

For examples of how to bring the IDEA concepts into practice, review the examples provided in the gsLearn course, 499 IDEA for Volunteers.