The Boy Scouts of America will be fully inclusive for girls for the first time in its almost 100-year history, its leaders announced Wednesday, the latest move to adapt the organization's rules in an era of declining membership.
"The need for female leadership has never been clearer or more urgent than it is today - and only Girl Scouts has the expertise to give girls and young women the tools they need for success", GSUSA said after the announcement.
Starting next year, young girls can join Cub Scout units, known as dens, even earn the coveted Eagle Scout honor award. Those all-girl dens will be part of larger packs, which will be co-ed.
But Soto-Harmon believes there is a misconception about what is available in the Girl Scouts. However, Farrer said initial discussions to make both Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts programs co-ed died down about a year ago.
However, this is not the first time the Boy Scouts of America has offered a co-ed program.
The BSA's chief scout executive, Michael Surbaugh, said in an interview that the Girl Scouts offered "great programs" but argued that many parents viewed the two sets of programs as significantly different and wanted the option of choosing between them for their daughters.
"It's kinda disappointing because one of things I really like about Girls Scouts is that it's all girls and we get to see from women leaders who have really impacted the world", says Senn. They worry the move will create unnecessary competition and will hurt their own membership.
"The Boy Scouts of America conducted some research and about a year ago it seemed like they would fast-track this notion of allowing girls to join", Farrer said.
The Boy Scouts of San Diego did not respond to multiple 10News requests for an interview. Anyone who's had young children in Scouting programs knows that siblings of either gender often attend pack meetings and campouts out of necessity.
When Matt Skelly was coming up through the Boy Scouts of America in his youth, achieving the rank of Eagle Scout was the ultimate accomplishment.
Clarke Farrer, the scout executive for the BSA's Grand Teton Council headquartered in Idaho Falls, said this was a decision that has been kicked around for several years now.
Founded in 1910 and long considered a bastion of tradition, the Boy Scouts have undergone major changes in the past five years, agreeing to accept openly gay youth members and adult volunteers, as well as transgender boys. She questioned whether that was an issue of concern to boys in the Boy Scouts.
"Only 4 percent right now earn the rank of Eagle Scout", Skelly told VOA.
Steven Smith, CEO of the Connecticut River Council - the local branch of the Boy Scouts of America, with more than 20,000 scouts in eastern, central, and western Connecticut - emphasized that the integration is meant to complement Girl Scouts. "Both of those groups are very focused on families and whole-family participation", he said.
"We have analytics that show our programming works", she said. It should be giving the girls' achievement - which requires working hard to build the same skills we celebrate so publicly in Eagle Scouts - the respect it deserves.
"The Girl Scouts remain committed and feel strongly about the importance of an all-girl, girl lead, girl friendly environment that the Girl Scouts provide", Girl Scouts Dakota Horizons CEO, Marla Meyer said.
While there is a rough equivalent in the Girl Scouts - the Gold Award - the honor is not almost as well-known as the Eagle Scout distinction.
Those groups said the Boy Scouts' new initiative would not weaken their commitment to single-sex programming.
The BSA's initiative, announced Wednesday, has already chilled what had been a mostly cordial relationship between the two youth groups since the Girl Scouts of the U.S. was founded in 1912, two years after the Boy Scouts.