Sharon Moulds doesn’t mind taking the road less traveled, but she’d probably prefer a trail.
The self-proclaimed “Boy Scout brat” agreed this month to lead the century-old organization’s Laurel Highlands Council, setting her squarely atop a hierarchy long dominated by men.
She is one of seven women among about 300 Boy Scout executives. She oversees programs for about 30,000 Boy Scouts in 16 council districts across Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia.
“It was tough at the beginning, but no one gives it much thought now,” Moulds said of her foray into Scouting. “Society changes. Every organization evolves. Scouting is about trailblazing. We know how to be first.”
Fresh from journalism school in 1984, she took the advice of her dad — a paid Scouting professional — and became the Boy Scouts’ first female paid professional in Peoria, Ill. Five years later, she became a Boy Scout administrator in Columbia, Mo. Again, she was the first woman on its payroll there.
In those years, men quit because of the hiring of women. Men argued, telling her women didn’t belong at a Boy Scout camp.
“One Scoutmaster who had this belief invited me to his troop’s 75th anniversary banquet, and when he introduced me, (he) said I was the best camp director he ever had,” she said.
She won over critics with an easygoing attitude, she said.
As the organization’s director of development in Detroit through the early 2000s, Moulds built partnerships with a popcorn company — the Boy Scouts’ chief fundraising arm — and increased sales and donations by more than 20 percent.
Those were the days when the metro area was flush, before the auto industry took a stark turn, said Detroit-area Scout executive Vic Pooler.
“She has this manner people just want to embrace,” Pooler said. “I was her colleague, but even when she became my direct supervisor, she treated me like a peer. She didn’t demand anything. She consulted me, and we always worked together.”
In Milwaukee, she added women and minorities to a nearly all-white board.
Leaders in Seattle, where Moulds last served, sing her praises, Laurel Highlands Council President Bernie Lockard said.
“The reviews were just glowing, and her gender is an added bonus,” Lockard said. “We want more girls involved in our programs, but it takes strong leadership to let people know that non-traditional path is another option.”
Girls make up about 10 percent of local venturing programs, which are the only co-ed Boy Scout offerings, compared to about 50 percent nationwide.
Scouting really isn’t about gender, Moulds said.
“It’s about serving as many young people (as possible) in the Scouting program so they can grow up to be good citizens, good fathers and good community leaders.”
Local membership Vice President Brian Tedeschi of Moon started Scouting at about age 7. His two sons participate.
Tedeschi expects Moulds to foster cooperation among staff and volunteers to drive growth and encourage efficient use of financial resources.
“It’s important for folks to understand that Scouting is focused on building lifelong skills people can subscribe to and call on every day to help them be better,” he said. “That sounds hokey, but it’s true.”
Moulds is expected to develop a strategic plan for Laurel Highlands Council, the result of a three-year consolidation that joined councils.
“We wanted a different perspective and personality,” Lockard said. “It takes time to grow and change, but with the right leader, we think we can get there.”
(The Boy Scouts of America Communications Department was not involved in the creation of this content. By Megan Harris, The Pittsburgh Tribune.)