Meet our trustees: ‘I believe in the impact we have on young women'

Speaking to the trustees who help us all to give girls amazing experiences

20 June 2024

In this series of blogs, we’re talking to some members of our board of trustees to learn about their experiences.

These amazing volunteers contribute their diverse skills and experiences to make sure we’re doing our best for girls in the UK.

In this blog, we speak to Mary Agbesanwa. With several years of experience as a management consultant, she now leads a sales team at a financial tech start-up. She’s a spokesperson for gender equality and diversity and inclusion. She also runs the Now You’re Talking network, a global female personal development and entrepreneurial community.

Tell us about your trustee role – what does it involve?

‘I’ve been a trustee for Girlguiding for 3 years now. My role involves providing oversight and strategic direction to make sure Girlguiding effectively fulfils our mission of giving girls great experiences. This includes taking part in board meetings, reviewing financial reports, and contributing to discussions on key decisions.

As a former Brownie and Guide, I love being able to give back using my community-building and operational business experience. It’s great to be part of the journey supporting Girlguiding to modernise for the future.

As well as the board, I sit on the nominations and governance committee. I provide guidance on a variety of areas, such as equity, diversity and inclusion and the brand refresh.’

What have you been working on recently?

‘I'm thrilled by the impactful work of our recent working group. In this group, we considered how to encourage and develop pathways into governance and decision-making roles for young people and other members of Girlguiding. 

We talked to different groups like Amplify (our youth steering group) for their ideas about this. Together, we unpacked what ‘governance’ means, and how we can use different types of communication to help people find out about and get involved in these important roles. Through this, we encouraged other conversations and strengthened relationships with groups like our council.

The group is really pleased that the drive to engage more deeply in governance is becoming embedded within Girlguiding. This will remain a key focus for the board moving forward.’

What originally made you want to become a trustee?

‘I’ve always loved volunteering as a way to meet new people and support causes I’m passionate about. I’ve volunteered internationally in Bulgaria and Tanzania, as well as at multiple music festivals, helping with recycling or campaigning for good causes. I also sat on a youth board before my trustee role.

My journey to becoming a trustee for Girlguiding was linked to my deep-seated passion for female empowerment. While I was at university, I founded and ran the University of Birmingham Women in Finance society. This was inspired by seeing the lack of confidence about being “working world-ready" amongst female peers on my economics degree. I currently run my own social enterprise called the Now You're Talking network that helps women earn more and be more confident professionally.

As a kid, Girlguiding provided a fun, creative and high-energy environment for me, so I truly believe in the transformative impact we have on young women. When the opportunity arose to contribute my skills and experience at a governance level, I eagerly embraced it as a chance to give back.’

What are your goals as a trustee?

‘As a trustee, my overarching goal is to ensure Girlguiding continues to thrive and evolve in our mission to empower and support girls and young women. I aim to bring strategic insights and innovative thinking to the board. As trustees we’re able to leverage our networks and expertise to strengthen the organisation's partnerships and amplify its impact.’

How do you think your personal experiences as a former Brownie and Guide have guided you as a trustee?

‘My years as a Brownie and Guide instilled in me the values of leadership, teamwork, and service to others. These experiences have served as a compass in my personal life, professional career and trustee role, informing my decision-making. By understanding first-hand the transformative power of the organisation's work, I strive to make sure every girl in the UK has access to similar opportunities for growth, self-discovery, and empowerment.’

How do your experiences impact your role as a trustee? How do your skills and knowledge from your career translate into your trustee role?

‘My background in fintech (financial technology) and the financial services industry equips me with a unique perspective and skill set that I bring to my trustee role. In my work I spend a lot of time speaking to clients about change, digital transformation and the importance of being client-centric. A lot of similar themes to what we discuss on the Girlguiding board!

Skills-wise, my strengths are in strategic planning, business development, and partnership-building. Additionally, my experience in management consulting has honed my analytical thinking and problem-solving. This enables me to contribute to board discussions and decision-making processes.’

What do you find most rewarding about being a trustee?

‘The most rewarding aspect of being a trustee is being at the forefront of carving out and witnessing the tangible impact of Girlguiding's work on the lives of girls and young women. Not every decision is easy, but knowing I play a part in enabling these transformative experiences is incredibly fulfilling.

Moreover, being part of a dedicated board and collaborating with passionate individuals (mostly women), who share a common vision for empowering the next generation of female leaders, adds a profound sense of purpose and satisfaction to my trustee role.’

What’s the most fun thing about being a trustee?

‘One of the most enjoyable aspects of being a trustee is the opportunity to engage directly with Girlguiding members and volunteers. Whether it's attending events or simply interacting with members, these first-hand experiences offer a glimpse into the vibrant community and impactful work of the charity.’

What’s been your proudest moment as a trustee?

‘A standout moment came when I was appointed as a trustee buddy to a new trustee member on our board. In this role, I have the opportunity to guide and mentor the new trustee, sharing insights, knowledge, and best practices that I’ve gathered. As I reflected on my own journey and the growth I’d experienced as a trustee, it dawned on me how much I’d learned and how far I’d come in my role.’

What advice would you give to others who are considering becoming a trustee?

‘For those considering becoming a trustee, my advice would be to approach the role with an open mind, a willingness to learn, and a genuine commitment to the charity’s mission and values. Seek out opportunities to leverage your skills, expertise, and networks to contribute meaningfully to board discussions and decision-making processes.

Additionally, prioritise building strong relationships with fellow trustees, staff members, and stakeholders. Effective collaboration and communication are essential for driving positive change and achieving collective goals. Everyone is all in this together!’

Thank you Mary for sharing your thoughts with us! If you’re inspired to learn more about becoming a Girlguiding trustee, keep an eye on our opportunities page where we regularly post about how you can get involved.