Through the Social Practice Academy, we support young women from Black, Asian and minoritised ethnic backgrounds onto charity boards. In this Insights interview, Iana Vidal shares with us her experience of having served as a young trustee at the Girls Friendly Society, before subsequently going on to become the Chair of the board. Iana stepped down from her role at GFS in 2021 and now currently serves as a trustee of the Cares Family.
1. What prompted you to apply to become a young trustee?
I applied for my first trustee role when I was 24. I was looking for ways to develop key skills and experience that would help me in my career but would also allow me to support something I’m passionate about – and for me that was feminism and gender equality. During the process, I was gently steered towards a position on the Youth Committee instead to serve as a role model for the young women who participated and support their decision-making; someone who was a bit older, but not too old so they could relate.
After two years we (myself and the charity) felt I was ready to join the Board as a trustee, and I was appointed when I was 26.
2. You blossomed in your trusteeship journey and went on to become Chair of the board – what would you say your highs and lows were?
There were many highs during my time on the Board. I met so many strong, wonderful, dedicated girls and women and learned so much from them every day. I loved it when we came together as a charity to share our achievements and discuss our plans for the future. I always faced robust challenge - which was good!
One of my favourite moments was attending the launch of a new after school group for the girls we support. One of the girls who turned up was so shy she held her father’s hand tightly for the whole session, barely spoke and showed little interest in all the fun activities we had planned. I was certain she wouldn’t be back. A few months later we refreshed our brand with some new photos taken by the team and my shy little friend was front and centre, having the best time with new friends she’d made at her group. I was delighted but not surprised; that demonstrated the remarkable value of the charity, and the capacity it had to really change the lives of girls and young women.
In terms of lows, there were many moments when I felt a range of negative emotions – being a chair can be overwhelming, frustrating, scary and disappointing at times. It will try your patience to the absolute limit and occasionally you will be let down by people. But it just reflects the peaks and troughs of life, and I don’t regret for a minute the time that I spent on the Board.
3. What are the benefits of volunteering as a trustee in your opinion?
Being a trustee is a fantastic experience. You get to work with bright people who care about community and friendship.
You develop skills such as leadership, strategic thinking and financial management that can help you develop professionally or personally. And you can use your talents and enthusiasm to support a cause you care about. It’s a privilege to serve in this way and I’d encourage anyone who’s thinking about it to just go for it!
4. Any tips for other black women considering joining boards as trustees
Do lots of research! Think about what motivates you and find charities that align with your passion. Then do your due diligence – check the organisation’s Charity Commission or Companies House records, and search for any concerning press coverage. You want to be sure you’re walking into a safe environment.
Connect with people and ask for help if you need it. Don’t think you need to navigate the journey to trusteeship alone. Join the many communities like Beyond Suffrage and Young Trustees Movement that are driving change in the sector, find your peers and mentors in the spaces that inspire you, and keep in touch with people along the way. You never know when they might be best placed to support you – and vice versa.
Be bold. The best charities are transforming their cultures to put true inclusion at the centre of what they do. If you feel judged or belittled in a role, you’re in the wrong place and they don’t deserve you. Only stay somewhere that welcomes you – the whole you – and celebrates the fresh perspective you will bring to the table.
Learn more about our Beyond Suffrage trustee training programmes.