I bought some Girl Scout Cookies on a street corner yesterday. The box says: â€œThe Girl Scout Cookie Program promotes financial skills such as goal setting, decision-making, customer-service and money management.â€ Okay, I buy it. I mean, literally, I have bought numerous boxes this season (and the last, and the one before that, etc.).*
But there was an interesting part of the experience this time that I thought was worthy of a note. Two girls were selling the cookies (with two women who were presumably their mothers behind them), but a little boy was next to them handling the money. The boy was clearly younger, probably the little brother of one of the girls. I think itâ€™s great that heâ€™s learning math and dealing with money. He should learn about things of that sort. But wait, wasnâ€™t the purpose of this program to help girls learn such skills?
Once, when their daughter was three, Linda stopped in a drugstore for something and the child saw a stuffed animal she wanted. â€œDo you have enough money to buy that for me, Mommy?â€ she asked. â€œDo girls have money, or is it just boys that have money?â€ Linda was horrified. Their family habits had unwittingly communicated to their daughter that men control money, not women. She and her husband now make sure that their daughter sees Linda paying for things frequently; they also bought their daughter a piggy bank so that she can have money of her own.
Again, Iâ€™m all for little boys learning about money and arithmetic, but the purpose of this program is that girls learn related skills. Given all the situations in everyday life where men are the default for handling money, it would seem important to emphasize girlsâ€™ exposure to it in the context of a Girls Scouts program.
To be sure, the girls were quite active in the selling process (attracting folks to the table, offering samples) so it is not as though they were passive observers. But if anything, this suggests that they were not shy to interact with the customers and thus could have been given the responsibility of handling the money. I only recognized these dynamics after I left the table. If Iâ€™d been paying more attention, I would have just handed one of the girls the money. Next time.
[*] No worries, I donâ€™t eat most of these cookies myself, I give them to the students in my lab. I also try to make some healthier snacks available as well, but these cookies tend to be pretty popular.