New Chief Guide aims to welcome a million members

On her first day in the role, award-winning business woman Valerie Le Vaillant announced her commitment to welcoming even more girls from all backgrounds and called for more businesses to recognise the life-changing skills girls learn through guiding.

Girlguiding Blogger
25 May 2016

Fun, adventure and diversity

As Chief Guide, the charity's most senior volunteer and Chair of its Board of Trustees, Valerie is committed to ramping up the fun and adventure on offer for Girlguiding's members and widening access and diversity to give opportunities to more girls from all backgrounds - as part of her vision to welcome a million members into guiding. 

As Chief Guide, Valerie will work alongside Julie Bentley, Girlguiding's Chief Executive, to deliver the charity's ambitious new strategy – Being our best.

Valerie, who succeeds Gill Slocombe as Chief Guide and will serve a five-year term, has been involved in guiding her whole life – even getting married at a guide camp. She believes her guiding experience has been instrumental in helping her build a hugely successful career in construction and development, and is calling for more businesses to recognise the skills girls learn through guiding.

New Chief Guide's experience

Valerie has had a highly successful career in the property sector. In 2001 Valerie was awarded an OBE for services to 'architecture, and the community in East London'. In December 2009 she was made a Cabinet Office Ambassador to help champion equality and diversity in Ministerial/Public Appointments, and in 2015, she won the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award in the National Women in Construction Awards.

She is currently Managing Director of Le Vaillant Owen Consultancy, an innovative company specialising in sustainable development and community regeneration, Chair of Swan Housing Group which is currently regenerating 1,600 homes on the Blackwall Reach estate in Tower Hamlets, London - and Chair of the UK Sector Skills Council for land-based and environmental industries.

Valerie's past roles with Girlguiding

Valerie has championed diversity throughout her guiding career. The majority of her guiding leadership roles have involved running outreach programmes in socially disadvantaged and ethnically diverse areas across East London.

As a District Commissioner in the 1980s, Valerie worked with London Docklands Development Corporation, undertaking a major Girlguiding community education outreach project to help build social cohesion between existing Docker communities and emerging Docklands communities.

In the 1990s, Valerie ran an internationally acclaimed outreach programme, particularly targeting Muslim girls, where she led significant numbers of adults in Girlguiding from a wide range of backgrounds and established 22 new units across some of the poorest and most needy parts of Tower Hamlets.

Her plans for Girlguiding

Speaking about her appointment, Chief Guide Valerie le Vaillant said, 'I firmly believe that girls can do anything - given the right confidence, self-belief and support and the opportunity to have amazing fun and incredible adventures along the way. That, for me, is what makes Girlguiding so special. Girls can do anything and guiding can help them do it!

'So I am incredibly honoured to have been chosen to be the next Chief Guide. What gets me really excited is helping us live up to our values: to be an exciting charity for girls and young women, to help them develop into strong, assured and happy women who have the confidence to succeed in life, and to do so through the fun and adventure that sits at the heart of guiding.

'I've dedicated most of my time in leadership roles to opening up Girlguiding opportunities to girls and young women from diverse backgrounds. We need to do everything we can to remove the barriers to more girls and young women getting involved with us.'

We're excited

Girlguiding Chief Executive, Julie Bentley, said, 'I am absolutely delighted to welcome Val as our new Chief Guide. She is a fabulously strong and positive role model for girls and young women and I know she is going to bring huge energy and dedication to the important role of Chief Guide. I'm very much looking forward to working alongside her.'

Valerie continued, 'I'm taking up this role at a time when we are putting in place some really ambitious plans for the future.

'With well over half a million members taking part in social action, being active in their communities and advocating for positive change every day – Girlguiding is already an incredibly powerful force for good. But I want to see a million members – from all backgrounds - involved in guiding!

'The experiences girls gain in guiding are life-changing. I want even more businesses to recognise the skills girls learn through guiding – from leadership, team-work and problem solving, to independence, confidence and resilience.'

Charlotte Forrester, 17, young member of Girlguiding's Advocate panel, said, 'I'm really excited that Valerie is to become our new Chief Guide. She's proof that girls can do anything if they put their mind to it. It's so important for girls to have role models and Valerie has succeeded in a traditionally male-dominated field, construction and development, so I hope she'll inspire lots of girls.'

Valerie was appointed following an extensive recruitment process that involved both girls and volunteers.

Valerie and her husband Bob have four daughters – all of whom are members of guiding.