Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Bristol Brownies : post three

Another email today from Girl guiding, in response to this one from me ~ I've cut and pasted here in full, the numbered answers relate to the numbered questions in that second email I sent them.  Confused yet? 

Hello Lucas
In answer to your questions:
1.     Volunteers over the age of 65 can continue volunteering in any role except for the role of Unit Leader – we do not prevent Members over the age of 65 from Volunteering and are therefore inclusive of all ages.
2.     The last time there was a change to the retirement policy was in 1977, when the Girl Guides Association (as we were then) took the decision that the retirement age for Guiders (Leaders) and Commissioners should be 65. The reasons given at the time was that, as a youth movement, we should not have uniformed members over 65. However, a lot has changed since the 70s, Girlguiding’s Executive Committee is committed to keeping the policy under regular review.
3.    Girlguiding is a Volunteer led organisation, All policy decisions are therefore led by our Members , it was agreed at a meeting of the  Girlguiding Executive Committee that the policy required review.
4.     The review process involved focus groups across the UK, activities for girl members, an online questionnaire and a review of past concerns and comments regarding the retirement policy. The results of the review were evaluated and the retirement policy was been changed accordingly.
5.    Girlguiding recognises that many of our Leaders are fit and able after the age of 65, however there are also many Leaders who do feel under pressure to continue with their role as Leader indefinitely, the policy takes the pressure off of such Leaders and also gives other Members of the Leadership team the opportunity to take on the role of Unit Leader.
I hope you feel that your questions have been answered adequately, thank you again for taking the time to email Girlguiding.
Kind Regards

And here goes:

Dear ...
Thank you very much for your thorough response to my questions, it is very much appreciated.  I do, however, have some follow up queries, and hope that you will be able to take the time to respond.

1. In relation to your continued assertion that you (as an organisation) are inclusive, please consider the example of a school where women were welcome to work as a teacher, LSA or in an admin role, but the school policy stated that the head teacher position could only be held by a man.  Women are not prevented from working within the school, only prevented from a single specific role in fact ~ would you consider this school to be inclusive?

2. I am glad to hear that Girlguiding's Executive Committee are committed to reviewing the policy relating to enforced demotion under regular review.  Could you possibly find out when this review is expected to take place, or whether this Executive Committee might be prepared to consider amending the policy prior to this full review?

3. It is heartening to hear that you consider yourself to be a volunteer~led organisation ~ is there a specific number of times a query has to be made in order to trigger it being raised as an item on the agenda of the Executive Committee, or is there a proportion of members which would trigger this?

4.  The review process sounds impressively thorough ~ did  evaluation of responses received point to a specific age at which Brown Owls should step down, or was the 65 age limit decided by the Executive Committee?

5. While I understand the laudable notion of relieving pressure on those women who feel they would like to step back from the role of Brown Owl, would you not agree that there after many points in a woman's life where such pressure might occur, such as changing jobs; starting a family; or taking on a role supporting aging parents perhaps?  I would anticipate that at these points an informal conversation would take place between these women and someone else within the organisation (District Commissioner perhaps?  My knowledge of the organisational structure is a little hazy) to evaluate whether that individual should step back.  Keeping in mind the changing nature of society and the individuals roles and responsibilities, surely any of these could, in practice, have a similar impact ~ do any of these actually trigger an enforced demotion in the way that reaching 65 does?

While I appreciate that for a large international organisation such as yours it is impossible to be all things to all people, by creating a fairly arbitrary cut off point based solely on age aren't you in fact defeating your own aims of instilling a sense of responsibility and autonomy within the younger generation?  Would it not be more in keeping to your founding principles to value each and every member of your volunteer/leadership team for the contribution they make, and supporting them to continue making this contribution for as long as they are able to and want to do this?  

I understand and, in fact, commend you for making provision for women to have an escape route of sorts, so they do not feel pressured to continue in their role, but by forcing this on individual women who actively want to continue still seems to me to be fundamentally unfair.  In effect, it is an enforced demotion.  In this circumstance, Hilary wants to continue as Brown Owl in order to represent this role in the celebrations for the one hundredth birthday of Brownies ~ does it seem fitting for her to be refused this after dedicating so much time and energy and passion and commitment for over thirty years?

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So, let's see how that goes.  As always, pretty please with a cherry on top, add a comment just down under this and pass this link on to family / friends / work colleagues / vague acquaintances / your child's friends parents / your child's teachers / your child's teachers friends . . . you get the idea!

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