At GFS, we are committed to tackling all forms of discrimination wherever we can.

GFS has a long history of recognising and addressing inequalities girls and women face in life – almost 150 years of history in fact! While we’re confident speaking openly about gender inequality, our thinking and practices, we know we have more to do to be truly intersectional and inclusive of everyone. 

Following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, we realised it was past time for us to open new conversations about racism and privilege within GFS and across the charity sector as a whole. We started this mission by publicly supporting the Charity So White campaign and launching a new Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) strategy.

But what does that really mean?

Simply put, it means we are doing our best to consider all of the different things that come together to build each girl’s experience of the world. GFS should always be girl-shaped, and because many girls and women have multiple protected characteristics, we have to think about how all of these shapes come together (or intersect) to create how each girl experiences the world.

For example, if a girl is disabled, Asian, and from a low-income migrant background, these are all separate identifying features that she may share with many other girls, without sharing all them all. But all of them are building blocks for how that specific girl experiences the world, and may influence how others treat her, both in negative and positive ways. So, we aim to celebrate all forms of diversity, because girls and women cannot be empowered when we only embrace one part of what makes them, them. 

Our Approach 

We signed up to the ACEVO eight principles to address diversity deficit in charity leadership and starting our journey of improvement in all that we do for staff, volunteers and the girls we support. Since June 2020, when we established the EDI Team, we have achieved so much together. This taskforce consists of members of each staff department. They meet once a month and will continue to do so for an entire year, at which point the members will be rotated

In January 2021, all teams were tasked to work together to complete a questionnaire on how they saw the organisation performing against three key areas with regards to EDI: governance, volunteering and employment, and girls and young women. Our EDI Team is currently working under a plan with nine key objectives, listed out in our current EDI plan. We thoroughly intend for our EDI work to be ever growing, which leaves these goals open to change as new points are identified over time. 

Some of the feedback suggested that we had more work to do in communicating what we were doing, and some departments have work to do to ‘catch up’ with their peers, but the common themes were clear for us to build a plan for the charity and then for us to review our progress annually. We developed a set of key objectives for the team to work on:

  • Objective 1: Understand key diversity information in relation to staff volunteers and girls
  • Objective 2: Embed staff understanding and promotion of EDI through
  • Objective 3: Ensure representation of key communities throughout staff and volunteer teams – that our team reflects its community and that EDI is considered when completing scoping criteria for new groups.
  • Objective 3: Ensure representation of key communities throughout staff and volunteer teams – that our team reflects its community and that EDI is considered when completing scoping criteria for new groups.
  • Objective 4: Ensure marketing materials reflect our commitment to EDI
  • Objective 5: Ensure all girls and families feel welcomed, represented, and heard, in our groups
  • Objective 6: Ensure EDI is a key part of senior strategic decisions and lead by the Board
  • Objective 7: Hear all voices
  • Objective 8: Creating wider opportunity
  • Objective 9: Keeping the conversation going

So far, we’ve made sure that every venue has an accessibility audit as a baseline for GFS groups, and we’re starting to think about training and development for volunteers. We’re also considering how we can best ensure our volunteer team are prepared and supported, so they can include every girl that wants to come to GFS, regardless of background or ability level. Admittedly, we’re not there yet, but we are committed to doing our best to learn, unlearn and listen, so we can reach our goals.

Of course, an intersectional GFS can’t overlook staff, volunteers or governance. That’s why we’re trying to develop a working style that works for everybody, while also reconsidering how we hire.

Covid has been a time for learning to respond to people’s personal situations and individual levels of challenge and remaining focused, inspired and motivated. Our number one priority is to get the right person for each job, and that means making roles fully remote for disabled candidates who need it, offering hybrid working, and being open to candidates outside of London.

So what do we look at when trying to find the ‘right’ staff? Skills, diversity and inclusion, and lived experience, to name a few.

We’ve successfully put these ideas into practice by changing how we recruit for our Board of Trustees and Committees, and we are excited to see how our efforts to diversify our board will impact the girls and young women we support, as well as the volunteers and staff teams who work with us. Our efforts to change our board diversity also landed us on the Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland’s shortlist for Diversity and Inclusion Initiative of the Year 2021.

Our changes around board diversity have been important for us, and we hope the conversations that will come from these changes will have a large impact for the girls and young women we support, as well as the volunteers and staff teams we work with.

Key messages of change
  • The board and subcommittees were and remain 100% women
  • The board has seen increased participation of non- white British from 22% to 33%
  • The subcommittees have seen increase from 20% to 46%
  • Overall our governance has seen an increase from 15% to 36%
  • The Board has moved from having one young trustee (12%) to three (23%)
  • The subcommittees have moved from 0% to 38%
  • Overall our governance has moved from 7% young women to 31%
  • The Board has moved from 0% LGBTQ+ to 8%
  • The subcommittees are unchanged at 0% LGBTQ+ membership
  • Overall our governance has moved from 0%LGBTQ+ to 3%
  • The Board has moved from 0% members having declared a disability to 8% who have
  • The subcommittees are unchanged at 0%
  • Overall our governance has moved from 0% to 3% membership having declared a disability

This has been an important piece of work and every time we meet we think of more we need and want to do. We’ve taken a step back to look at what we need to do to take the next step forward – we’re very well aware that this is an intersectional task.

For the sake of achieving our mission we know we need to do internal work such as unconscious bias training, as well as really considering all of the ways in which girls need to be included. We know we need to go to the places where girls are, this could not be more true for marginalised groups and that’s a piece of work we’re excited to embrace.


GFS EDI Terms of Reference