I was a Girl Scout during most of my childhood, and that experience had a profound impact on my life. As a Girl Scout, I worked alongside others to accomplish shared objectives. I learned how to take the lead and how to support others when they led; how to listen to different perspectives as we approached problem solving; and how to form bonds and relationships rooted in mutual respect and compassion. In short, I learned how to build a framework for community, working with others to effect positive change for everyone.

For women and girls to succeed, community is crucial, and they succeed most when they have a community to lean on and learn from. University of Notre Dame and Northwestern released a report showing that women with concentrated networks of other women are likely to have a job placement level that is 2.5 times higher. In other words, women with female-dominated inner circles are more likely to land leadership roles. And I can personally attest to this; every job opportunity I’ve ever received has come through my network of other women. In fact, networking has had such an impact on my life that I’ve turned it into my career.

My own story and the stories of so many women I know show that having a community to lean on can make a pivotal difference in your career, and that knowing how to build and cultivate a network of women rooted in compassion and understanding can help propel you along the path to leadership.

The earlier we learn these community-building skills, the more powerful the impact. Look at the stats: 90% of all Female Astronauts,76% of Female Senators,80% of Female Tech Leaders, and100% of Female U.S. Secretaries of State were Girl Scouts. As we think about the values that build a foundation for success, it is evident that the Girl Scouts have created something powerful.

That’s because Girl Scouts builds Community. The Girl Scouts program mirrors the networking that women in business engage in. I see the similarities every day in our work at Ellevate. In Girl Scouts, girls lift one another up; at Ellevate, we help each other achieve huge career milestones. Girl Scouts teaches girls about the success that comes from building connections, relationships, and mutual support; at Ellevate we open doors, make introductions, mentor and sponsor each other. These communities believe in you more than you believe in yourself, and that is the kind of power that propels you into business, into government, into space, and beyond.

While Ellevate and Girl Scouts are creating places for ever-growing, dynamic, and impactful communities to happen, we know that networking skillsare not innate for most. I often hear women say,“I don’t know how to network.” So many women enter the business world without having been taught how to build these strong professional relationships — relationships that research tells us result in more opportunities and a steeper career trajectory.

Within the Girl Scouts program, girls are getting the chance to learn that critical networking skill that we know is proven to boost careers. Their early mentors — troop leaders — are proving that there are people who support you, who can amplify and accelerate that path to success. These girls are building relationships and a network through Girl Scouts, but they are also building the skills to create these relationships later on. This is learning how to connect; how to support others; how to both ask for help and lend it.

So, how can we best help women and girls to succeed? Invest in our networks.

It takes work to build an authentic and powerful community, but it is vital that we do so. When women are exposed to larger networks, more opportunity, more diversity of thought, and to the support that they need, we see more and more women advance in their careers.

Be an active participant in the networks and communities that have been proven to help women thrive. Support organizations like the Girl Scouts that are creating the foundational characteristics that are core to the success of girls and women. Join a community like Ellevate, where you can get and lend support to other women, building the kind of relationships that are proven to boost careers.

Investing in our networks and our communities is investing in our future, and when you’re part of a community, you’ll see yourself and your potential in a new way — ready for whatever’s next, strengthened by others who are there to support you, and ready to take action, lead, and change the world.

Originally published on Ellevate.

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