Way the cookie crumbles: Girl guides challenge gender balance

Way the cookie crumbles: Girl guides challenge gender balance

“It’s never too early to learn about business” could well be this month’s commercial mantra for the Irish Girl Guides.

Members of Irish Girl Guides from age five onwards will be honing their entrepreneurial skills throughout November by selling cookies during IGG’s National Cookie Month. Giving them the freedom to make decisions on all aspects of a business transaction, including how many packets to order, what method to sell and how to spend the sales income — the girls will develop business, communication, teamwork and public relations skills.

Now in its third year in Ireland, this age-old tradition in the US will see the guides using their initiative by selling to families, neighbours and setting up stalls outside local shops.

In 2018, 2,500 of IGG’s 10,000 youth members took part in the fundraising initiative with 25,000 packets of cookies sold, raising €25,000 for their local Guide units. An additional 10,000 packets were donated to homeless and direct provision centres. The Carrigaline unit in Cork sold the most cookies last year — 1,536 packets.

Leader Aisling Claffey explained how the business was established:

The Guide unit became the Carrigaline Cookie Company with all the guides as employees working in different departments — management, marketing, HR, sales and distribution and finance. We continued the company after Cookie Month and into the new year when guides continued to work in their departments and earned a number of more Guide badges, including Money Matters, Healthy Mind and Online Safety

This year, for the first time, the girls will sell two varieties of cookies, assisted by a grant from the Ulster Bank Skills and Opportunities Fund. Both flavours of cookies are made in East Coast Bakehouse in Drogheda, whose co-founder and Dragons Den investor, Alison Cowzer, took on the role of mentor for IGG members, sharing with them her insider tips for making sales.

“It could take centuries to achieve equality without serious efforts to bring women into male-dominated spheres such as business and politics. No other organisation in Ireland is specifically working with girls to tackle the gender imbalance in business and so I am very happy to be a part of this project, which is helping foster a spirit of entrepreneurship among Irish girls and young women.”

She added that “the Irish Girl Guides is a proactive and forward-thinking organisation, which gives girls confidence and the opportunity to develop essential life-skills. I have seen my own daughters greatly benefit from their involvement in IGG”.

East Coast Bakehouse produces cookies and biscuits for the Irish market and for export to over 20 countries around the world. With a team of 65, the company is Ireland’s only large-scale biscuit manufacturing business. Approximately 99% of biscuits sold in Ireland are imported.

Way the cookie crumbles: Girl guides challenge gender balance

IGG Chief Commissioner Helen Concannon says the project has been given the hashtag #FutureCEOs, which stands for Creating Entrepreneur Opportunities, and it is hoped that all girls who get involved will develop and strengthen their goal-setting, decision-making, communication and entrepreneurial skills.

“We want to change the imbalance of the number of women in decision-making positions across the various sectors of society such as business, communities, companies and boardrooms all around Ireland and beyond,” she said.

“And this begins by giving girls opportunities to develop confidence. Over the past two years we have heard numerous stories from Guide leaders and parents saying how their girls started out as shy salespeople unsure of how to even begin and ended up savvy businesswomen.”

Irish Girl Guides has over 11,000 members and operates throughout the 26 counties with 1,600 volunteer leaders providing an informal educational programme of fun and challenging activities that foster confidence and leadership skills in girls and young women, enabling them to develop to their full potential and become responsible citizens.

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