Girl Scouts of the United States has appointed Judith Batty as interim CEO, making her the first black professional to hold the position. Batty, who is a board member, former senior legal counsel, corporate leader and lifelong Girl Scout, will begin her duties starting August 15, taking over from Sylvia Acevedo.
Batty previously served as an executive and senior attorney at Exxon Mobil Corporation for more than 28 years. She was the first woman and Black female general counsel of ExxonMobil’s Japanese affiliate. She also worked as senior director of federal relations, government, and public affairs for the Exxon Mobil Corporation.
“When I was young, the Girl Scouts instilled in me the courage, confidence, and character that have guided me through my life and career. It is an incredible honor to bring those lessons back full circle to help the Girl Scouts navigate this transition,” Batty said in a news release.
The Girl Scouts organization, founded more than 100 years ago, now serves more than 1.7 million girls and 750,000 adults. It was launched on March 12, 1912, in Savannah, Georgia by Juliette Gordon “Daisy” Low at a time when many of the troops were majority white. African-American girls would join troops as early as 1913 in Massachusetts and the first all-Black Girl Scout troops were established as early as 1917, according to the organization. In 1924, Josephine Holloway became the first Black Girl Scout troop leader.
History would further be made in 1932, when the first all African-American Girl Scout troop south of the Mason-Dixon Line was founded by Maggie L. Walker, a bank president and newspaper editor, according to the National Park Service.
It wasn’t until the 1950s that a national effort to desegregate all of the Girl Scout troops began. The African American Registry reports that by 1956, the Girl Scouts had become part of the early Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called the scouts “a force for desegregation.”
However, even recently, the organization is mostly white, The Atlantic reported in 2016. The percentage of Latina scouts (12%) and African American scouts (11%) had hardly budged in the preceding four years.
“As families across the country contend with so much uncertainty and upheaval, I am committed to ensuring that the Girl Scouts continues to offer a shelter in the storm– a place where all our girls feel welcome, can find community, solidarity, leadership opportunities and fun, despite the challenging moment we are all collectively living through,” Batty added in the release.