The first Latina CEO of Girl Scouts of USA, Anna Maria Chavez has fulfilled her childhood dream of giving back to her community and the organization that helped her become a national leader.
What makes the difference between a girl and a woman?
“Girl Scouts,” cheered Anna Maria Chavez, chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of the USA and the first Latina to lead the organization.
The new CEO was recently in New York City to celebrate National Girl Scout Cookie Day, the largest business run exclusively by girls and the volunteers that support them. The $790 million cookie program proceeds are used to train girls in five leadership skills: Goal setting, decision making, money management, business ethics and people skills. Among several media presentations, Chavez was also invited to ring NASDAQ’s Closing Bell.
The organization that last year celebrated its 100 years of existence is a lifeline for 2.3 million girl members and 890,000 adult members who work primarily as volunteers helping them achieve their dreams in education, community service and leadership. When most people still relate Girl Scouts to selling cookies and going camping, this widely recognized non-profit has turned its direction to strengthening girls’ role in society, especially now—and more than ever—when women are being pressured to compete in every position, career and industry.
Anna Maria Chavez’s election came at a crucial time of this centennial organization when the need to reinvent its vision had already started.
“I was very excited about this opportunity because I had been working at a grassroots level in Texas creating leadership programs since 2009.” Chavez’ impressive leadership track record in state and federal government as well as her work within the organization brought a timely influence in the non-profit’s remarkable transformation.
Anna Maria Chavez: Beginnings
“I’m a product of this organization. As a little girl in Arizona, none of the women in my family had a cultural connection with Girl Scouts but the opportunity resonated with my mother as a platform that would allow me to excel in school,” she told VOXXI in an exclusive interview.
Chavez was raised in a Mexican-American family in the small town of Eloy, Ariz., before her family moved to Phoenix.
In her adult life, she always had the organization in mind. Trying to understand the aspirations of girls like herself, whose opportunities might be limited or who might find barriers and obstacles to their education, Chavez did research in areas where population growth trends were present.
“While working in Arizona, I asked demographers to research areas where growth trends would sample the future of the nation. We looked for regions were great diversity and interesting developments were taking place, and we found it in San Antonio, Texas,” she shared. “The Texan city was an example of cultural diversity, close to the Mexican border, with important colleges and universities and a major military installation with dynamic local and international business activity.”
The award-winning leader put her eyes on the task, picturing the life of girls in a region where 50 percent of the population is of Latino origin. In 2009 she was named chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas. During her tenure, she worked at a grassroots level creating opportunities to open up for girls in the region.
“Girl Scouting happens locally and the first changes were tested at the council level. When I was elected to the national movement, I continued to change Girl Scouts into a dynamic organization that would support girls into these new and very demanding roles without abandoning our original vision,” Chavez said.