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Boy Scouts will allow girls to join

(CNN) -- The Boy Scouts of America's board of directors has unanimously agreed to welcome girls into the Cub Scout program and to forge a path for older girls to pursue and earn the highest rank of Eagle Scout, the organization said Wednesday.

"The historic decision comes after years of receiving requests from families and girls," Boy Scouts of America said in a statement. "[T]he organization evaluated the results of numerous research efforts, gaining input from current members and leaders, as well as parents and girls who've never been involved in Scouting -- to understand how to offer families an important additional choice in meeting the character development needs of all their children."

BSA said the move is also aimed at helping busy families consolidate programs for their children.

"Families today are busier and more diverse than ever. Most are dual-earners and there are more single-parent households than ever before, making convenient programs that serve the whole family more appealing," the BSA statement said.

Boy Scouts of America has about 2.3 million youth members between the ages of 7 and 21 and about 960,000 volunteers in the United States and its territories.

Scouting leaders praise decision

"I welcome [the Boy Scouts'] decision to integrate girls in their programs," tweeted Ahmad Alhendawi, the Secretary-General and CEO of World Scouting, "Oh #DayOfTheGirl, we affirm #Scouting commitment to girls empowerment."

"Today the BSA opens a new chapter in our history," tweeted the Boy Scouts' Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh.

The news received mixed reactions on social media, with some critics calling the move unnecessary and "PC."

Donald Trump Jr. also weighed in, saying, "Strange, I thought that's what the Girl Scouts was for???."

A new prestigious goal for girls

The decision to allow girls to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout is significant for several reasons.

The rank of Eagle Scout is a prestigious and widely recognized achievement, one that can have long-term benefits in academic, professional and even military spheres. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Neil Armstrong and Former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates are just a few notable men who have attained the rank of Eagle Scout.

While there is a rough equivalent in the Girl Scouts -- the Gold Award -- the honor is not nearly as well-known as the Eagle Scout distinction.

The Boy Scouts' announcement fell on the International Day of the Girl, designated by the United Nations in 2012 as a day to discuss and celebrate equal opportunities for young women around the globe.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2017 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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