Being a Girl Scout has always been a family affair for Pam Salkovitz.
The Sudbury resident worked her way up the Brownie, Junior, and Cadet ranks alongside her sister. Her mother was a troop leader. Salkovitz became a counselor-in-training at Camp Shore Lea in Marblehead, after years as a camper at the Girl Scout facility. Her daughter became a Brownie and Junior Girl Scout.
Now, Salkovitz has returned to the organization that filled her childhood with campfires and cookies as the interim chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts.
“This opportunity to lead an organization that touches the lives of thousands and thousands of girls is really an amazing opportunity,” Salkovitz said. “From a very personal standpoint — my mom died at a young age, so for me to have the honor of doing this is somewhat out of honoring her memory as well.”
Salkovitz will serve as CEO for six months while the regional organization searches for a permanent replacement for Ruth Bramson, who retired last month after almost six years as its ranking official.
A member of the group’s board of directors since last year, Salkovitz was reintroduced to the organization when she received a Leading Woman award in 2007. She has served in other capacities too, including on a development committee and a task force on revenue diversification, and has sat on a CEO advisory board.
Salkovitz earned a master’s degree in business administration from Northeastern University and an undergraduate degree at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is taking a leave of absence from her position at Konnected Advisors, where she counseled women developing their entrepreneurial skills.
Before joining Konnected, she was president of a multimillion-dollar footwear and accessories business, Stride Rite Children’s Group, and held senior management positions with Jones New York and Nine West.
“I’ve always had an interest in fashion, and that, coupled with my ability to anticipate trends and to maximize trends, served me well in my many years in the fashion accessory business,” Salkovitz said. “It’s fast-paced. Women change their minds; women move on. They’re less stagnant than men.”
She believes her background in consumer brands that appeal to women and children aligns with the goals of Girl Scouts, especially as the organization competes for girls’ time.
“I do think we need, more than ever, to continue to find ways to be more customer-centric so we can keep ahead of the trends of what theses girls are doing, so we can continue to engage them and retain them within the organization,” Salkovitz said.
“I think we really need to keep a very close eye on what they’re doing, and need to be nimble and a little bit aggressive making sure we have what they want.”
Salkovitz is joining the Girl Scouts at a critical time. The council is embarking on a three- to five-year strategic plan for which she will lay the groundwork.
“My role is really to work with the organization and prepare it for future leadership,” Salkovitz said. “I’ll be working closely with the staff to make sure first and foremost we are meeting our financial goals.”
The plan will work to make Girl Scouts available to every girl in Eastern Massachusetts, engage more adult volunteers, and run programs that will train girls to be leaders, according to Salkovitz.
Girls “need to learn how to speak up,” Salkovitz said. “They need to learn how to be risk takers. Those are the two qualities that I consistently see that girls are lacking behind some of their male peers.”
The regional council serves 40,000 girls in more than 3,000 troops in 178 Massachusetts communities, and operates nine day camps, four overnight camps, and two family camps in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, including Camp Cedar Hill in Waltham, Camp Winnetaska in Ashland, and Camp Virginia in Bolton.
As she reconnects with the organization, Salkovitz said, she has been happy to see it is fundamentally the same as it was when she was a member, even though the way it delivers its messages and connects with girls has changed.
“I think it really did teach me leadership skills,” Salkovitz said. “Whether it was working as a team when we were camping, whether it was selling cookies, even when we had to go out and earn our badges, we needed to really be assertive and creative in the way that we would go about earning them.
“There were actual experiences, whether it was doing pottery, learning how to tie knots, learning how to cook over a campfire — even though I didn’t use them in my career — the adventure and sense of trying new things stuck with me.”