Your local Girl Scout troop could be incubating the next Fortune 500 CEO.

Eight women leaders of Fortune 500 companies were once Daisies, Brownies, Juniors, or more, according to an analysis by Fortune staff. 

“It’s no surprise that so many women in leadership roles were at one time a Girl Scout,” the Girl Scouts of the USA’s CEO, Bonnie Barczykowski, told Fortune when asked about the results. 

Current Fortune 500 CEOs who are Girl Scouts alumnae include General Motors’ Mary Barra, Centene’s Sarah London, Oracle’s Safra Catz, General Dynamics’ Phebe Novakovic, Bath & Body Works’ Gina Boswell, Edward Jones Investments’ Penny Pennington, and Graybar Electric’s Kathleen Mazzarella.

Famous for their seasonal selection of delectable desserts including Thin Mints, Trefoils, Tagalongs, and Caramel deLites, the Girl Scouts actually operate the largest girl-led entrepreneurial program in the world, selling over 200 million boxes annually and generating about $1 billion, according to Barczykowski.   

“It is a period of time in which they engage into the financial education piece and learn how to promote their cookie business as young entrepreneurs,” Barczykowski said.

Many of these CEOs told Fortune that the experience really mattered for their careers.

“Being a Girl Scout gave me an opportunity to explore new ideas and step outside of my comfort zone, which helped me gain confidence and a belief in my abilities,” Mazzarella, who’s helmed Graybar Electric since 2012, told Fortune in an emailed statement. “The timeless life lessons I learned as a Girl Scout influenced me throughout my career and continue to shape the way I lead today.”

Pennington, who joined Edward Jones in 2000 before becoming managing partner in 2019, spent several years as a Girl Scout in the early 1970s.

“Brownies and Girls Scouts left a lasting impression on me—my confidence in learning new things, the fun of working as a troop, and the commitment of adults who were guiding us,” Pennington said in an emailed statement. “Those are values I still talk about to this day and carry forward in life, decades later.” 

The list also extends to former members of Fortune 500 C-suites, like former IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, former Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson, and former Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg. Other business leaders include former YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, former JCPenny CEO Jill Soltau, and former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer.

The 2023 Fortune 500 ranking marked a new milestone for female leaders, with more than 10% of America’s largest companies ranked by revenue being run by women for the first time. 

The last has shifted in the past year due to recent exits including Roz Brewer from Walgreens Boots Alliance, Elizabeth Burr from Rite Aid, Julie Sloat from American Electric Power, and Barbara Smith from Commercial Metals. Still, newcomers in the form of MDU Resources’ Nicole Kivisto, Levi Strauss & Co.’s Michelle Gass, and Chemours’ Denise Dignam have ensured that 52 companies out of the 500 still remain led by women. (And yes, eight out of 52 members coming from the ranks of the Girl Scouts is a higher percentage than female CEOs on the Fortune 500, 15.3% to 10.4%.)

The 2024 Fortune 500 ranking will debut in June. Last year, the top 10 companies alone posted $3.7 trillion in revenue, with the total list representing two-thirds of the U.S. GDP.

On my honor

One in every three women in the United States was at one time a Girl Scout, according to Barczykowski, but the chief executive herself was not one of them.  

“There’s always a mic drop when I share that I was never in Girl Scouting,” Barczykowski said. 

Founded in 1912 with a mission of teaching young girls valuable skills like camping, community service, and first aid, the Girl Scouts of the USA has since grown to over one million active members and 50 million alumnae. 

“When I meet women from around the nation, and I ask them about their Girl Scout experience, whether they were in Girl Scouts one year, three years, 10 years, or 13, they all have memories and experiences that they tie back to that had influenced them in their lives,” Barczykowski said. 

The organization’s influence stretches across the country with 111 councils, and even outer space. The first American woman to walk in space, Kathryn Sullivan, said she prioritized “filling up her sash” with badges as a young troop member. 

The group’s reach also extends to politics; the halls of Capitol Hill and the White House are filled with former members. According to the Girl Scouts, 56% of women in the 117th Congress (2021-2022) were known to be alums. Plus, every female secretary of state in U.S. history was a Girl Scout or Girl Guide alum, including Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, and Hillary Clinton.

“A majority of the women astronauts were at one time Girl Scouts, a majority of our folks who are in the Senate and the House were at one time Girl Scouts,” Barczykowski said. 

Hollywood also boasts a roster of Girl Scout stars, including Carrie Fisher, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Reese Witherspoon. Music superstar Taylor Swift served as a Girl Scout in her native Pennsylvania, and notably donated free tickets to her 2018 Reputation tour to troops in New Jersey and Connecticut. Even more, the Girl Scouts can count on actual royalty as former members:s Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, and Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco. 

“When I think of some of the leaders that lead different organizations, both nonprofits and corporations and foundations, they were at one time Girl Scouts,” Barczykowski said. “Again, no surprise when you hear about the skills that they built from when they were young that they’ve carried into these amazing careers.”

Badges and business

Fortune 500 and Global 500 companies have partnered with GSUSA to fund new programs and curriculum for young girls–complete with themed badges to fill their sashes. 

Fannie Mae CEO Priscilla Almodovar told Fortune she was a “big fan of badges” as a Girl Scout, and she still remembers her first camping trip with her troop.

“Badges made me curious to try out and learn new things, gave me the confidence that I can build new skills and gain knowledge, and taught me to hold myself accountable,” Almodovar said in an emailed statement. “I also learned about teamwork and working alongside other girls.”

Priscilla Almodovar

GM CEO Mary Barra, a former Brownie, told Fortune that being a Girl Scout “exposes girls and young women to new experiences and opportunities they may have never imagined,” and helped introduce new STEM-themed badges. 

In 2020, her company announced a $1 million grant to help the organization develop STEM programming and teach members about the designing, engineering, and manufacturing of vehicles.

“We are proud of our work with Girl Scouts of the USA to help launch a series of STEM and Automotive badges,” GM CEO Barra said in an emailed statement. “We need more women in STEM fields and Girl Scouts is an incredible organization inspiring the innovators of the future.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by fellow Fortune 500 boss Gina Boswell, CEO of Bath & Body Works, whose company provided some seed funding for a 220-acre immersive STEM and Leadership Campus in Galloway, Ohio. 

Boswell told Fortune she was “a proud Girl Scout from the time I was six years old straight through my freshman year of high school.”

“One of the biggest takeaways from my Girl Scouts experience was the importance of community, service to others and creating a sense of belonging,” Boswell said in an emailed statement. “When you become a Girl Scout, you realize for the first time that there’s more to life than just your individual self – you realize that you’re part of a larger collective.” 

But it also seems like all those cookie sales really taught a business lesson, along the way.


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