The Boy Scouts of America made the historic announcement on Wednesday that girls would soon be welcome to join the ranks of the Cub Scouts and earn the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout, a major shift for an organization that has been almost exclusively geared toward boys since its inception over 100 years ago.
Once the change goes into effect next year, Cub Scout dens will be comprised of a single gender, including either all boys or all girls. Cub Scout packs, the next largest grouping of participants, will have the option to remain single-gender or welcome both genders.
“We believe it is critical to evolve how our programs meet the needs of families interest in positive and lifelong experiences for their children,” Boy Scouts chief executive Michael Surbaugh said, according to NBC News.
Starting in 2019, BSA will offer a separate program just for older girls which will allow them to reach the coveted rank of Eagle Scout. That way, the organization said in a statement, families can rely on a single scouting program to serve the needs of all their children, whether they happen to be boys or girls.
BSA also cited two nationwide surveys it conducted among parents whose children were not involved in scouting to make the decision, claiming that those parents would largely prefer to sign their daughters up for Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.
The move has been met with pushback by the Girl Scouts organization, which claims that letting girls into the Boy Scouts threatens to damage the relationship between the two groups and may negatively impact girls who learn better in single-gender environments.
“We are unparalleled in our ability to build great female leaders who contribute to society at every level,” said psychiatrist and Girl Scouts volunteer Andrea Bastiani Archibald.