Women Scouters

Can Women Be Assistant Scoutmasters?

Margaret sent in this question:

Are single moms allowed to be assistant scoutmasters and go along on outings and campouts with boy scout troops as long as there are separate bathroom facilities?

Thanks for the question Margaret. The BSA does not ban women, single or otherwise, from serving in any adult leadership roles in the Boy Scout program.

I am an Assistant Scoutmaster in our troop and I have been on many campouts.  And I have participated when only unisex facilities were available. When separate facilities are not available for women, I ensure that youth know the latrine is occupied. Our troop uses a system of hanging a ribbon across the door.  Our scouts know this means the latrine is occupied and the person inside needs privacy.  This information from the Guide to Safe Scouting gives practical information about how to handle this situation:

If separate shower and latrine facilities are not available, separate times for male and female use should be scheduled and posted for showers. Likewise, youth and adults must shower at different times. The buddy system should be used for latrines by having one person wait outside the entrance, or provide “Occupied” and “Unoccupied” signs and/or inside door latches. Adult leaders need to respect the privacy of youth members in situations where youth members are changing clothes or taking showers, and intrude only to the extent that health and safety require. Adults also need to protect their own privacy in similar situations.

So being a woman does not bar you from participating in troop events as far as the BSA is concerned. Of course, you will still need to be approved by your chartered organization and do the appropriate training.

I have heard the argument that women shouldn’t serve in leadership roles in Boy Scout troops because the boys need male role models. I don’t disagree that male role models are very desirable. But having women along does not diminish the men’s ability to act as role models. And I feel that our young men will also benefit from learning how to interact appropriately with women. As they grow into adulthood, they will have women as colleges, employees, and bosses.  It is beneficial for them to learn how to behave appropriately with both genders.

Readers, what do you think? Add your comments below.

10 Responses to Can Women Be Assistant Scoutmasters?

  1. Kim March 31, 2015 at 10:25 AM #

    We have both men and women leaders in our troop. In fact, right now our Scoutmaster is a woman (since no men stepped up)! I’ve gone on camp outs and had no issues. The only issue for me was to not “mother” my scout while I was there. We just pretend he is just another scout, not my son, then I am less tempted to mother him. An example from his first summer at camp; I noticed that a couple of the first year scouts, including my son, weren’t taking proper care to keep there feet dry. I asked one of the male ASMs to give them some pointers and work with them. I didn’t step in to say anything to the boys since that would sound pretty mothery! And that year he even got cookies from his dad at home!

    • Money Man June 23, 2015 at 1:51 PM #

      If they look like the woman in the picture they camp with my unit anytime they want.

  2. Todd March 31, 2015 at 10:29 AM #

    Unfortunately in the USA Scouting, is gender based until you get into Venture Scouts. We are but only a handful of countries where you can’t just have a neutral scouting program.
    I’m looking forward to the day that we merge both Boy & Girl Scouts into a Scouting Program, until then…
    It may not be easy but after watching what I have seen done during my time… I know that anything is possible if people want want to do it they aren’t going to let anything stop them or get in their way. So enjoy the memories and moments that this scouting experience will bring you.

  3. Heather March 31, 2015 at 10:54 AM #

    Last summer the only two adults from my son’s troop that were able to go to resident camp with the boys all week were me and another mother. The camp itself had separate showering facilities for females (there were a few females on staff also). Our boys know that moms going on outings and camping trips is normal because we have always done it that way, from the pack to the troop. Having a strong male role model is great, but having a woman along, who’s just one of the guys anyway, teaches them about respect towards women in general. I feel it makes a young man more well-rounded when he has the influence of both male and female role models.

  4. Lori March 31, 2015 at 3:47 PM #

    My son’s troop has a female Scoutmaster and I see no difference in how her troop is run compared to other troops. She has some great male Assistant Scoutmasters. But I do know of troops that do not allow women to hold leadership positions. My feeling regarding that is if that is what the parents and committee wants…who am I to say they are wrong. Each unit must do what works for them

  5. Ryan Hauck April 1, 2015 at 8:07 AM #

    I have no issues with (qualified, trained) women being Scoutmaster or Assistant Scoutmaster. While I believe that boys benefit from a strong male role model(s) and there should always be SOME sort of male leadership in a troop if possible, I think boys also benefit greatly from female role models who, as a previous commenter said, teach boys respect towards women as well as how to properly interact with women.

    What is most important to me is that the leader, regardless of sex, is qualified and strong and inspiring.

  6. Adrienne K April 1, 2015 at 6:45 PM #

    Before my son was in our troop, we had a female Scoutmaster. She was probably one of the best SM’s the troop has ever had. When she was no longer able to provide the Junior Leadership Training (now called ILST,) the Troop stopped offering it all together – and what little support for the Patrol method we had, pretty much stopped, too. When my husband took over as SM, he sat down with that former SM to pick her brain and beg, borrow and steal training resources and wisdom from her.

    Was it a function of gender that made that female SM? No. But her gender did not prevent her from being a fabulous leader.

  7. April June 1, 2015 at 5:05 PM #

    Better yet … I am a woman AND a Scoutmaster. I was the only one willing to take it on when our last Scoutmaster stepped down. My husband was not able to due to the traveling expected of him with his job. I encourage all moms to get involved to fullest extent. Not all can be Scoutmasters, but be there, get involved.

  8. Jimmy August 30, 2016 at 7:57 AM #

    When in doubt, go back to Lord Baden Powell’s original Scouting book. Look at his letters with Juliette Gordon Low (founder of the Girl Scouts) They explain their views on this. They believed that at some point Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts would eventually merge to become just Scouting. (Venturing is building their idea today.) He did not believe in mixed troops. Good manners of the day said that opposite sexes should not see the other unclothed before the marriage bed. (i.e. Separate troops based on gender.)

    Child Development, Anthropology and Sociology say that there is a point in where males need to distance themselves from their mother. They begin hanging around older males and being taught the ways of Manhood. This is part of normal development in modern and ancient times. The kids that are not allowed to do this are socially stunted in their ability to interact with self-confidence in all aspects of their lives.

    Is it possible to be a woman in the middle of this process? Maybe. Depends on the woman and son. He needs to see men and women in leadership roles during his childhood. He needs to see them interact as peers. This will teach him to do the same. He needs to get cuts and bruises. He needs to play in the mud. He needs to know that he is going to make mistakes and that it is ok. He needs to learn to work with others. He needs to learn that hard work returns benefits in the form of Merit Badges and Rank. There are members of both genders that can’t do this. They don’t need to be Scouting leaders. It is going to be harder for you as a woman in the middle of this. Just as it is harder for the Dads involved in Girl Scouting. Are you willing to be involved if it best for your son? Are you equally willing to step back if it is the best thing for your son? These are questions I leave for you to answer for your family.

    Make sure that the Men in his life are quality people. Make sure they have “guy time”. It is part of your son starting to take the first steps out of the nest and into the world.

    He needs to grow to be a Man, not just a male.

  9. Matt M. from MA November 30, 2017 at 4:58 PM #

    My Troop allows women in the program but in a committee member capacity. We believe that they benefit from male role models on outings. I believe it is up to the individual unit to decide on membership. If you do not agree, there are other local units. As Advancement Chair and Committee Member, I can give my opinion (I do agree women should be allowed to be ASMs), but the decision is ultimately up to the Chartered Organization and Representative. I know at the District, Council, and National level, woman cannot be discriminated against due to Gender. Individual units are governed by their own discretion.

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