How the Lady Scouts CEO went from rocket scientist to America's greatest champion of women

There are moments that Sylvia Acevedo, CEO of the Lady Scouts of the USA, simply cannot overlook.

There was the time a school counselor at her highschool in Las Cruces, New Mexico, scoffed at Acevedo’s want to review engineering. “Women like you do not go to school,” she remembers the counselor saying, in a reference to her Mexican ethnicity.


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And there was the time when Acevedo gained a aggressive four-year scholarship to review engineering, however the male judges have been so incredulous of her talents, they insisted on interviewing her personally. Acevedo remembers one of many judges saying she represented change, and “change for the sake of change isn’t progress.”

These experiences may need deterred Acevedo from happening to develop into one of many first feminine Hispanic rocket scientists within the nation, have been it not for the Lady Scouts. Years earlier than the school counselor and the scholarship decide undermined and mocked Acevedo’s potential, she’d already found her aptitude for science — alongside along with her confidence — due to the Lady Scouts.

“I at all times had the opportunity of success,” she says, “however due to the inflection level of Lady Scouts in my life, it made the success a likelihood.”

Now, Acevedo is without doubt one of the most influential public figures urging women to pursue careers in science, know-how, engineering, and math. She sat on the Lady Scouts board for years and formally grew to become the group’s president earlier this 12 months, after holding the place on an interim foundation.

Final week, she took heart stage at Dreamforce, the annual software program convention hosted by Salesforce, and made an unimaginable pitch: Assist Lady Scouts increase $70 million in order that it will possibly transfer greater than 2.5 million women into the STEM pipeline by 2025.

Although the initiative displays the long-term shift towards a STEM economic system, it additionally looks as if an formidable gambit to extend Lady Scouts membership, which dipped lately and stands at 1.8 million women and 800,000 adults. Fewer volunteers and households more and more pressed for money and time have performed a component(opens in a brand new tab) within the membership downturn.

Drawing in new Lady Scouts is much more pressing given the Boy Scouts’ latest determination to deliver women into its ranks. So the hyper give attention to STEM is not only a pure intuition for Acevedo; it is also a savvy transfer to make the Lady Scouts stand out — not solely from the Boy Scouts however from the narrative that every one Lady Scouts does is promote cookies. That hasn’t been the case because the group’s founding, however Acevedo is aware of that cookie gross sales are how most individuals encounter Lady Scouts.

Rob Acker, CEO of, the software program firm’s nonprofit arm, has observed the Lady Scouts’ elevated use of digital know-how to succeed in and have interaction women, volunteers, and alumni. (Lady Scouts pays to make use of Salesforce software program.) He is assured that the group can each expose women to STEM abilities and enhance their confidence in these fields.

“There isn’t any higher position mannequin to encourage and supply hope for women throughout the nation than Sylvia,” Acker mentioned in an e mail. “Due to her background and distinctive vantage level, she acknowledges the roles of the longer term and the necessity to present women with the talents essential to reach this new world, which is one thing we’re very centered on at”

The so-called tech pipeline is a controversial topic in Silicon Valley. Some say there are many certified ladies to rent, however they face rampant delicate and express bias in recruiting and retention. Others have a look at the variety of women and girls taking Superior Placement and school STEM programs and argue it is simply not sufficient to fulfill demand or result in improved office range. The extra probably rationalization is that each elements account for tech’s lack of range.

However Acevedo believes Lady Scouts is uniquely positioned to assist its younger expenses develop the resilience and management and problem-solving abilities to reach the male-dominated business.

When Acevedo imagines the way forward for STEM, she sees thousands and thousands of tech-literate women and girls working to make the world a greater place, from “therapeutic” the ocean to curing most cancers to bettering cybersecurity.


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“Issues are going to occur that we by no means imagined,” she says.

That sense of marvel has marked Acevedo’s life and profession. A long time after her first Lady Scouts campout at Apodaca Park in Las Cruces, you may nonetheless hear the joys in her voice as she describes the expertise. She may experience her bike to the campout, so she determined to earn her bicycling badge for the event, which meant studying tips on how to change a tire and memorizing visitors alerts.

The one-night occasion marked the primary time she slept in a tent, ate S’mores, and felt awestruck by the sky’s constellations — or what she she describes as “diamonds on black velvet.”

“I bear in mind simply, like, being mesmerized by the expertise. How way more enjoyable may I’ve?”

“I bear in mind simply, like, being mesmerized by the expertise,” she says. “How way more enjoyable may I’ve?”

Acevedo’s troop chief observed her intrigue and shared the names of the constellations, together with the Massive and Little Dipper. If Acevedo have been a superhero, this second would mark the start of her origin story: woman marvels at universe, and although she’s first reluctant to discover her superpower (engineering) as a result of it is not what all the opposite women are doing, she’s inspired by an elder (the troop chief who inspired her to pursue a science badge) and by no means seems again.

Acevedo went on to work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the place she developed algorithms, and individually, analyzed knowledge from the Voyager’s flyby of Jupiter. She finally spent a lot of her profession on the advertising and enterprise facet of tech in roles at IBM, Apple, and Dell.

Now, in every single place she seems in Lady Scouts programming, there is a STEM tie-in. Swimming pools have underwater robotics actions. Women who take up archery may also discover ways to calculate arc, velocity, and trajectory.

The group’s badges more and more mirror the STEM focus as properly. The Lady Scouts launched 23 STEM and outside badges this 12 months. Cybersecurity and house science badges will roll out over the subsequent two years. The $70 million pledge contains plans to construct regional STEM facilities of excellence throughout the nation.

“Women’ creativeness and potential will likely be unleashed,” Acevedo says.

Anika, a 17-year-old from from Cupertino, California, is a type of women. (Lady Scouts does not disclose members’ final names for security causes.) When she was a Brownie, bins with completely different science tasks would arrive for her troop. That fostered her curiosity in STEM. So did getting into right into a First Lego League competitors along with her troop, and later, assembly with Silicon Valley executives as a Lady Scout.

Anika was at Dreamforce when Acevedo made a shock go to to greater than a dozen Lady Scouts studying to code. They gathered round her, visibly awed by her movie star.

Acevedo handed out her coveted “CEO patch(opens in a brand new tab),” which options symbols and pictures that sum up her life expertise: Sigma as a result of she loves numbers, Infinity to honor infinite potential, and Jupiter, the topic of her work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. However Acevedo did not simply clarify all of this to the scouts. As an alternative, she quizzed them. Arms shot up within the air, and the ladies eagerly recognized Sigma, Infinity, and Jupiter.

“Earlier than I met her, I knew the fundamental info,” Anika says about Acevedo’s background. “However to see this patch and see an precise position mannequin who’s had a profession in [STEM] regardless of many obstacles … She’s taking her time to make an impression on future generations of women. It enforced my dedication to pursue a profession in STEM.”

That is precisely what Acevedo needs. Regardless of a lifetime of non-public success, she’s not content material except she’s capable of “give a hand again” to assist one other woman or girl succeed — a core Lady Scouts philosophy.

“We simply don’t need her to be taught a ability — she has to do one thing to enhance the world with it,” Acevedo says. “That’s what being a Lady Scout is all about.”

Originally posted 2017-11-17 20:17:11.