Jamie Boersma is the CEO of Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa, which serves nearly 14,000 girls and 4,000 adults in 67 counties in Iowa, one county in Nebraska, and two counties in South Dakota. As a recent winner of a “Characters Unite Award” from USA Network, Boersma focuses on serving as many girls in the community as possible and implementing life-skills programming for the girls. Programs focus on encouraging girls in science, technology, engineering and mat fields, relational aggression as it pertains to bullying, education and leadership.

Do you consider yourself a “character”?  If so, why?

I think anyone who helps give girls the chance to become strong and successful leaders, works hard to prevent bullying, and addresses important issues like diversity is a “character.” 

What does your average day look like?

No two days are the same, and that’s one of the very exciting parts of what I do. I try to make as much of our day as possible focused on our girls. What’s important to me is that each day, when I look at it, I can say I spent the majority of my time focused on the girls. That might mean having discussions on how we’re going to serve more girls or how we’re going to give them the programming that they need.

Is it bad that the Girl Scouts don’t get the publicity that the Boy Scouts do?

We just stay focused on Girl Scouting. We really try to make sure that people are aware of what we’re doing, so that we tell our story.  

How has Girl Scouting changed for girls?

All you have to do is look around and see how the lives of our children have changed. They are very busy and they are very connected. When we say we want to help girls be Girl Scouts, we have such great things to offer them, we aren’t necessarily able to serve them all through a troop structure. Today, we work hard to take Girl Scouting wherever girls are. That might look very different than the structure of even five years ago. We are working very diligently to go where girls are, whether that’s in after-school programs or in their schools. We’ll go in with a series of programs and be there with them to help them learn. Our programming changes as girls change. We have a large focus on STEM (the effort to steer more students toward education and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics - areas in which girls traditionally have been underrepresented). We also do a lot of programming about relational aggression, helping them deal with bullying. Activities are always surrounded by fun. There is a plethora of other Girl Scout programming that happens.

What are your goals for the Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa?

It’s always to serve as many girls as I can. Keeping them in Girl Scouting for three to four years is a very big goal for us. Because our research shows us that if a girl stays in Girl Scouts for three to four years that they stay in school longer, their behavior is better, and when they get out of school, they make more money. We know the longer we keep them, we have really have a long-term effect on them.

Are there adult Girl Scouts?  

We like adult Girl Scouts. There are 4,000 volunteers, and they are adult Girl Scouts. They function in a lot of different capacities. They can be men and women. Some of our most successful programing you’ll see is we’ll have a man who wants to give his time along with a co-leader and they work with girls. It’s very powerful programming.

You’ve written about wanting to help girls become achieving women and have given your mother credit for encouraging you. Tell us more.

She was very forward thinking and ahead of her time in her career field and just kept on moving forward. Doors were open to me because of that. I didn’t back off from opportunity; I picked it up and took it. That’s what we really want to do for girls, because not every girl has that. In the way we deliver Girl Scouting, we help girls discover who they are, connect with the world around them, build teams, see problems and then take action in that world. That’s the formula. We want them to understand they’re empowered to do that. No matter what their environment looks like around them, they can be a leader. Whether it’s for two days or for five years to get something large done. Whatever that might be, they have the skills and ability through Girl Scouting to help support them in that.