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From Girl Scouts to Disney Leaders: Inspiring Future Female Leaders

The Disney Imagination Campus team
by The Disney Imagination Campus team

Did you know that many Disney Parks leaders started out as Girl Scouts?

Bethany Cobbs, Cynthia Cowan, Dottie Clendenin, Maryann Smith, Vanessa Rosas and Caroline Cates are all former members of Girl Scouts USA. In fact, Girl Scouts helped them to realize their potential and gave them some foundational skills that helped them to get where they are today in their careers and their personal lives.

Every girl deserves to know and reach their potential. And as a growing young woman, it is important to develop the abilities that can help you navigate the challenges and opportunities life presents. Girl Scouts empowers young girls across the globe, teaching them skills that are vital to reaching their potential such as leadership, teamwork, creative problem-solving and many more, every day.

Bethany Cobbs, College and International Programs Recruiter in the Internships and Programs recruitment division for The Walt Disney Company, says she acquired valuable skills during Girl Scouts like creative problem-solving, goal setting, collaborating with others, and cultivating friendship. But she also urges young girls to do something else that will help them along their journey––embrace their uniqueness and authentic voice. Bethany shares that embracing your authentic voice and uniqueness is both beautiful and liberating. By doing this, she claims, you will begin to realize your strengths and build new ones. You will also find that it helps you to build stronger connections with people, which is a wonderful characteristic of leaders. Bethany encourages girls to “be who you are.” Your potential is in your uniqueness, and you have something special that people need.

So, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. When you do, that is when some of your best qualities are brought out.

Cynthia Cowan, Director of Worldwide Safety Assurance Learning, embraced new experiences through Girl Scouts, which enabled her to step out of her comfort zone and try new things. Since working at Walt Disney World Resort, she has employed that philosophy throughout her career. Cynthia has developed meaningful relationships and has accomplished so many things that she never thought possible! This is why she believes in the importance of trying new things, even if it may seem out of your comfort zone. Because Cynthia employed her skills of goal setting and getting things accomplished throughout her journey, she has been able to make a remarkable impact on her organization and her colleagues.

Moving out of your comfort zone can be daunting. However, the Vice President of Disney Vacation Club Sales, Dottie Clendenin, has learned through Girl Scouts how to be prepared to pursue her dreams. To do this, she says that you should remain optimistic, don’t compare yourself to others, and be open to learning on your journey. While in Girl Scouts, Dottie even got the opportunity to live her dream of being featured on a Girl Scout cookie box! Dottie believes you should surround yourself with good people who want to see you succeed – just like she had with her Girl Scout troop. Whether it be friends or mentors, having these key people in your life are of great value to your growth.

It can be challenging when you are young to know where you want to go in your future life and career. Maryann Smith, the Vice President of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park advises that while you are pursuing your dreams, do not be afraid to course correct if you feel as though something is not for you. Every young girl deserves to use their skills in a way that makes them happy. Maryann shares that when she was young, she was very shy and introverted. However, when she started as a Brownie in the Girl Scouts at age 8, she learned that being true to who you are will show you the right path. She shares that oftentimes we can learn more from failing than from succeeding; it’s all about taking that first step to get your foot in the door and having the courage and confidence to take risks.

Vanessa Rosas hasn’t always been an Industrial Engineer for Walt Disney World Resort. She was also once a Girl Scout for six years growing up in Puerto Rico. What she learned in Girl Scouts influences her actions every day in her career with Disney. As a current leader with Disney Sports, she learned from the Girl Scout Law that what she does impacts others beyond herself. Due to these lessons she learned in Girl Scouts, Vanessa emphasizes how she strives to work every day with integrity, respecting others and helping them to succeed. She even encouraged her own daughters to join Girl Scouts, knowing that it will allow them to try new things, take risks and empower them to become leaders in their community.

“There is an expectation that young people should know what they want to do at 18 years old, shares Caroline Cates, current Entertainment Manager at Magic Kingdom Park and former Girl Scout of 13 years. I try to encourage my Cast Members that it’s okay if they don’t know yet, and that they should still learn and try new things.”

She shares that her time in Girl Scouts made her a more diverse and well-rounded learner. As a woman, she is happy to inspire and empower the other women on her team to pursue their dreams and “take a seat at the table” as a leader. “I learned as a Girl Scout that anyone can make a difference,” Caroline shares. “The community service and citizenship that I learned when I was younger is applied every day in my career to make a difference to my Cast Members and Guests at the Walt Disney World Resort.”

As we've learned from these Disney leaders, stepping out of one's comfort zone can lead to the discovery of hidden strengths and the creation of meaningful connections. These stories remind us that it's okay not to have everything figured out at a young age and that the journey to success is often marked by courage, resilience, and the willingness to course-correct when necessary. These Disney leaders hope that young women will remember that uniqueness is their strength, and like these incredible women, they too can make a difference in the world, one step at a time.

Embrace your potential, be true to yourself, and never underestimate the impact you can have as a leader.

Check out our workshops in Arts & Humanities, Science & Technology, Leadership & Innovation and Performing Arts at our East Campus in Walt Disney World Resort and our West Campus in Disneyland Resort for a discovery of real-world application of these concepts in our popular parks and resorts. Sign up for our e-newsletter to stay up to date on all things Disney Imagination Campus and explore all our academic workshops to see how we inspire imagination-powered learning.

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