Page 3 Profile: Julie Bentley, chief executive, Girlguiding UK


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The Independent Online

Girlguiding … Ah, needlepoint, baking, a spot of camping?

Think again. Thanks to Julie Bentley, “mother” Brown Owl herself, the Guides are taking an unexpected position at the vanguard of 21st-century feminism. On her appointment as chief executive in November 2012, Bentley declared Girlguiding UK the “ultimate feminist organisation”. In March she signed the group up to the “No More Page 3” campaign. Now she’s waging war on its “middle-class reputation” and is determined to show that guiding is “cool”.

She dropped the F-bomb?!

Feminism is a tricky word, but it seems she might be on to something as more and more people re-engage with the concept. (See Spare Rib relaunch, Beyoncé.) And Bentley has pedigree. She resisted opposition to the UK’s 24-week abortion deadline, pressed for compulsory sex education in schools and campaigned to change abortion laws in Northern Ireland. Under her (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) guidance, the Guides have launched a lecture series, the next of which is titled “Women in Leadership”.

What would Baden-Powell  think?

Hard to say. The founder of the Scouts set up the Guides after a group of girls gatecrashed the first Boy Scout Rally, demanding “something for girls, too”. The group has balanced this unruliness with a set of core values that offer a “corrective” to the modern world. How far Bentley will go is yet to be seen. There’s talk of dropping any reference to God or the Queen from The Promise – the organisation’s oath and its “beating heart” - and of turning it into a gender-neutral organisation.

Does it need a revamp?

Membership figures would say otherwise: half a million members, and a waiting list of 50,000.