From Cub Scout to Eagle Scout, the Boy Scouts of America will now admit girls into every level of their Scouting program.
The organization announced on Wednesday that families can sign up their sons and daughters for Cub Scouts starting in the 2018 program year. Another program, scheduled to begin in 2019, will allow older girls the opportunity to earn the coveted Eagle Scout rank.
The board of directors unanimously approved the decision, the organization said in a press release.
"I've seen nothing that develops leadership skills and discipline like this organization," said Randall Stephenson, Boy Scouts national board chairman and CEO of AT&T. "It is time to make these outstanding leadership development programs available to girls."
In practice, Cub Scout "dens" — subdivisions of larger groups, called "packs" — will be segregated by gender. Existing packs may choose to establish new, separate packs for girls, opt for a co-ed pack, or remain an all-boy pack.
Founded more than a century ago, the Boy Scouts of America has been a ubiquitous presence for generations of American families and has at times found itself at the center of American politics.
In 2015, the organization's national executive board lifted a decades-long ban on gay scout leaders one month after the U.S. Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.
More recently, the organization entered the political news cycle when President Donald Trump addressed the Scouts' national jamboree, giving a campaign-style speech to a crowd composed of a large proportion of kids ages 12 to 18.
The organization said Wednesday's decision brings the Boy Scouts closer to "the values of Scouting — trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent," said Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh.
While allowing girls to enter the Boy Scouts is a new development, co-ed programs have been offered since 1971 through Exploring and the Venturing program, the organization said in a press release.
"We strive to bring what our organization does best — developing character and leadership for young people — to as many families and youth as possible as we help shape the next generation of leaders," Surbaugh said.