Blog / November 28th, 2018
Inspiring my Brownies #PhenomenalWomen
2018 has been a year of celebration for girls and women. Many Girlguiding groups have been taking part in events to celebrate 100 years since some women in the UK first got the vote. As the great grand-daughter of a Suffragette myself, I was keen to ensure that my Brownies took part in these celebrations. We visited the Houses of Parliament in late 2017 and heard about the great struggles women made to secure our right to vote.
My attention was caught by a BBC London News interview with the first ever Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick; I decided that she was just the person to #InspireGirls. Some weeks later I was thrilled to receive a response inviting us to visit New Scotland Yard to meet with the Commissioner. I also received a lovely response from Paula Nickolds, Managing Director of the John Lewis Partnership, inviting us to visit her at John Lewis and Partners HQ, and an invite from Sarah Mullally, the first female Bishop of London, inviting us to meet her and take part in an Advent tea in December.
Four Legged Friends
My Brownies, from 1st Fulmer Brownie unit, along with Brownies and Guides from Farnham Common and Stoke Poges, visited New Scotland Yard during half term. As we arrived at New Scotland Yard we were met by several female officers who undertake a wide range of roles, including in the area of forensics, as Chief Inspectors and as dog handlers. The girls were totally besotted with the amazing police dogs and learned how the dogs live with their handlers full time, doing a wide range of tasks – from sniffing for drugs and money to finding people. We heard how one dog, Fizz, found a huge stash of money at a property that had been thoroughly searched by officers – who had found nothing!
We also met Commander Catherine Roper, who is herself a Girlguiding leader. Catherine talked to the girls about her role as a Commander and showed the girls around the equipment and uniform that police officers wear. In true Girlguiding fashion, Catherine challenged the girls to see how quickly they could change into the police uniform, including the heavy vest that helps to protect them. Catherine was a real inspiration and I felt proud that she was a fellow Girlguiding leader.
Meeting Cressida Dick
Commissioner Dick joined us later in the afternoon and shared with the girls how in 1983, after university, she joined the Metropolitan Police patrolling the streets of London, working her way through the ranks and a number of roles, including diplomatic protection to finally becoming Commissioner in 2017. She told us that she was delighted to receive my letter as we made history as the first every uniformed youth group to visit. She was especially pleased to meet us all in the year that sees 100 years since the first women police were recruited.
We also heard how police make an Oath of Honour at the start of their careers, similar to the Promise that we all make when we join Girlguiding. For one Brownie from Fulmer, Lily, the day was especially memorable, as she made her Brownie Promise standing alongside the Commissioner. Lily said her Promise and Law word perfect and I was so proud to share this moment with Lily and all the girls present, with a salute from Commissioner Dick.
As Lily finished her Promise ceremony, we presented Commissioner Dick with a Brownie Promise badge. As I was about to pin the badge on the Commissioner I almost had a moment of panic, as I thought to myself “OMG, I am about to pin a Brownie badge on the first female Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police – gulp”. I pulled myself together as the Commissioner gracefully accepted her badge with a left-handed Girlguiding handshake.
Wow, what an afternoon for the girls and one I will never forget! Many of the Brownies and Guides were inspired to think about a career in the police force – a couple of girls were quite sure that they wanted to be police dog handlers.
In early November our group of Brownies and Guides from Fulmer, Farnham Common and Stoke Poges embarked on our visit to meet with Paula Nickolds, the first woman Managing Director of the John Lewis Partnership at JLP HQ in Victoria.
As we arrived Paula came and introduced herself and asked me “Is the Brownie hut still in the same place in Fulmer?” I wasn’t sure what she meant, and then she explained that she had, in fact, been a Brownie in our pack at 1st Fulmer and was really pleased to be welcoming the girls from her former District. I immediately claimed Paula as one of my own – what an amazing coincidence – and one I wasn’t aware of when I wrote to her.
Paula joined Brownies and Guides in a pow-wow on the carpet of the meeting room. She told us how she joined the John Lewis Partnership as a management trainee following university. She started as an assistant on the shop floor and worked in various roles, including as a merchandiser and a buyer. Paula also explained how all members of staff who worked with John Lewis were partners in the company, and therefore all received an equal percentage share of the profits at the end of each year.
Paula shared a story with the girls that one of her teachers had advised her that she should not try and combine their hobbies with their future career. She felt that this was completely the wrong advice and that the girls should aim to have a career that made their hearts sing! On the journey home, the Brownies and Guides were busily discussing a proposal they will make to Paula for the 2019 John Lewis and Partners Christmas advert.
As I write we are making final plans for our visit to ICANDO, Pax Lodge and our Advent Tea with the Bishop of London on Saturday afternoon. Another phenomenal woman to add to our list and one whom I am sure will inspire girls.
I find it hard to describe how great it feels that in some small way, I might have helped to #InspireGirls by showing them some great examples of #PhenomenalWomen whose roles they can aspire to. I can still remember my wonderful Brown Owl at 1st Holborn Brownies in London during the 1970s; her kind and caring approach, and how she always did her best to inspire her Brownies and affirm that they could do anything they set their minds to. Of course, having a great-grandmother who was a Suffragette is something that I am deeply proud of, and she is my special phenomenal woman – especially in the year 2018, as this is the year of #Vote100 #PWG18