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Photos courtesy of the Girl Scouts of Orange County

More than 100 Orange County community and corporate leaders came together at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach for Voice for Girls 2012, a half-day interactive forum, to address the critical issues facing girls today and to focus on the urgent need for gender balanced leadership across all sectors of society.

The event was hosted by Girl Scouts of Orange County and presented by United Healthcare and included breakfast, remarks by female leaders and experts on girl issues, and a panel discussion with corporate and community leaders.

Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Anna Maria Chávez gave the keynote address at the event, and urged community leaders to be advocates and mentors for today’s girls so that they are prepared and inspired to be tomorrow’s leaders.  Chávez noted that the country needs to have the perspectives of both men and women addressing the country’s most difficult problems, and with just 16% of Congress and 2% of Fortune 500 CEO’s being female, society has a long way to go before achieving balance.  Chavez also stated that having women in leadership positions makes better business sense, noting that studies show that companies with more female board members and executives outperform those with fewer women in leadership positions, demonstrating higher return on sales, high return on equity and higher return on invested capital.

Girl Scouts of Orange County CEO Nancy Nygren urged local business and community leaders to bring the message back to their colleagues and constituencies, commenting, “At Girl Scouts, we’re committed to helping girls be leaders in their own lives.  But our call to action is bigger– these issues transcend any one organization or mission.”

The event also included a message from Dr. JoAnn Deak, an author, educator and psychologist, who shared that male and female brains are designed differently, and parents and educators must encourage girls to take risks in their critical early years in order for them to reach their fullest potential.  Voice for Girls concluded with a panel discussion on the issues facing women in the workplace that included Said Hilal, CEO of Applied Medical Resources Corporation, Dr. Judy Rosener, Professor Emerita at UCI’s Paul Merage School of Business and other local leaders.

2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts, the preeminent leadership development organization for girls. Girl Scouts is the leading authority on girls’ healthy development, and builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.  In Orange County, more than 23,000 Girl Scouts from every social and economic background are developing values, skills and abilities for success in the 21st century. According to a recent study conducted by the Girl Scout Research Institute in conjunction with an independent research firm, women who were Girl Scouts as children display significantly more positive life outcomes than non-Girl Scout alumnae.  Girl Scout alumnae have higher perceptions of self, higher rates of volunteerism and civic engagement, higher rates of college education and higher household incomes than non-alumnae.