Girlguiding apologises after audit uncovers multiple forms of discrimination by staff and volunteers

Senior leaders at Girlguiding have apologised after an audit found examples of racism, Islamophobia and transphobia among staff, volunteers and Girl Guides.

The audit, conducted by independent consultants, was conducted as a result of the charity’s new organisational strategy, which was launched in January last year. 

The audit included input from a range of stakeholders that included 46 interviews, 17 focus groups, a survey with more than 200 respondents and a document review. 

The main focus groups were LGBT+ people, ethnic minority people, working class people, disabled people and those belonging to minoritised faiths.

All of these groups said there were equality, diversity and inclusion problems and that Girlguiding was not seen as an inclusive organisation by most participants, according to a report into the review. 

It said some staff of colour had experienced white staff only greeting other white staff when entering the room and ignoring their colleagues of colour.

It revealed that racialised jokes and microaggressions in the workplace were a common experience.

One volunteer, who was a person of colour, responded: “Multiple times adult volunteers have asked me if they can touch my hair and also asked me where I am from.”

One Ranger was even called the n-word in a unit meeting, according to the report. 

It said that disabled Rangers, volunteers and some staff said requests they made for support were not always considered “worth it”. 

One disabled Ranger described feeling like nobody wanted to play with her and thought that the leader could help by encouraging girls to do so.

The audit found that working class volunteers often felt like they had to pay for uniforms and subs for working class girls in order to make Girlguiding more accessible for them.

LGBT+ participants also raised concerns such as being excluded from activities on the basis of their sexuality.

The report says that many LGBT+ staff members witnessed transphobia when interacting with volunteers and LGBT+ volunteer participants repeatedly mentioned that there was a “don’t ask, don’t tell” atmosphere in the charity’s membership.

In a joint statement, Angela Salt, chief executive of Girlguiding, chief guide Amanda Medler and Catherine Irwin, the charity’s chair, apologised to anyone who had been subject to discrimination or exclusion of any form at Girlguiding.

“Though members and staff told us about times we’d got inclusion right and their commitment and loyalty to Girlguiding, they also shared their experiences of when we haven’t got it right and how it made them feel.

“Regrettably, we learnt that not everyone always feels welcome, or like they belong, and there have been experiences of exclusion and discrimination.

“It revealed instances of racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and discrimination against disabled people and people experiencing economic disadvantage in guiding. Our data also indicates that we don’t yet reflect the diversity of our society.

“On behalf of Girlguiding, we are sorry to anyone who has ever been made to feel unwelcome, unsupported or uncomfortable, or who has been subject to discrimination or exclusion of any form at Girlguiding. Even one instance is one too many.”

The charity has promised to make Girlguiding a place where everyone had an equal sense of belonging and said it had put a “bold strategic plan” in place to help it achieve that ambition.

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