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Leadership knows no gender, says Girl Scouts 

Peoria Journal Star
September 26, 2012
By Laura Nightengale

PEORIA — Leadership doesn't always look like a man in a dark suit, Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon said Wednesday at a Girl Scouts fundraiser.

"There are more and more women in leadership, but, boy, there's still a huge gap," the former Brownie said.

About 200 people - some former girl scouts, others women in business, and even a handful of men - gathered to raise money for the national "To Get Her There" campaign aimed at motivating young girls to seek leadership positions.

The national Girl Scouts campaign is focused on young girls as they exit scouting, to encourage them to become leaders on college campuses and in their communities.

"This is really Girl Scouts of Central Illinois' launch of that initiative," said Pam Kovacevich, the organization's CEO. "It's an initiative designed to make an impact in a single generation that brings girls to the forefront of a leadership role."

Girl Scouts of Central Illinois serves 22,000 Girl Scouts in central Illinois, including 5,100 in the Peoria area. More than $6,000 was raised during the Wednesday luncheon.

"I see the value in the importance in what the Girl Scout experience does for girls, and I want us to be able to emulate that," Kovacevich said. "I'm very passionate about girls in leadership roles, and this organization personifies that."

Kovacevich encouraged attendees to participate, speak up and invest in girls' programs to encourage girls and young women to realize their full potential.

"It gives girls a chance to be leaders. It gives girls a chance to have some fun," GSCI volunteer Ann Kenney Lynch said. "I think any outfit that's been around for 100 years stands the test of time."

As the keynote speaker, Simon pointed to political figures such as Geraldine Ferraro, the first female vice presidential nominee, and her own parents as inspiration she had throughout her career.

"It's hard to look for those role models, but it's getting easier all the time," Simon said. "Making these personal connections with women in positions of leadership really has an impact."

Simon told the mostly female crowd that setting examples for the younger generation is one way women can encourage future female leaders.

"We can get to that point that more of our voices are heard," she said. "We have to go out of our way to encourage women to seek positions of leadership."

The "To Get Her There" campaign teaches young girls they don't have to choose between having a family and having a career, which Simon said is possible, but difficult.

"There's a big national discussion about whether you can have it all," Simon said. "I think the important thing to remember is that it's an individual choice. You can combine what you want to do in whatever way you want to do it."

Simon worked close to home when her two daughters were younger, and now that both are in college, she's in a position with higher demands for travel.

"Not that it's really easy," Simon said, "but you can always find someone who's pulling it off who can be a little bit of assistance when you need that."