The new head of the Girl Guides has described the institution as "the ultimate feminist organisation" telling The Times the Guides is not about "itchy brown uniforms and sewing and baking".

Julie Bentley, former head of the personal safety charity Suzy Lamplugh Trust and Family Planning Association has been appointed the Guides Chief executive as part of a drive to grow their membership and ensure the organisation prepares girls for the modern day challenges.

In particular she wants to combat pressure heaped on women to look a certain way and show that "confidence, self-esteem and inner belief" is what defines who you are.

She told the Times: "I want to help young women to understand that all too often they will be presented with stereotypes of what a successful woman is and it will largely be defined around their physical appearance."

Research conducted by the guides show two thirds of girls believe women are still judged on looks before their ability and one in three would consider surgery to change their appearance.

One in five girls think women are treated less fairly than their employers and more than a fifth worry their career chances are worse than their mothers.

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Ms Bentley said taking part in the Guides can equip girls with confidence, and said she wishes she had joined growing up.

Their activities are far more diverse in 2012 than the traditional 'domestic skills' associated with the movement she said, saying that both girls and indeed guides in general should not be "pigeon-holed."

girl guides 1921

Girl guides in Knightsbridge in 1921: they were set up in 1911 by Robert Baden-Powell, who founded the Scouting movement

In a statement released upon her appointment, Ms Bentley said: "Girls today face real and unique challenges as they grow up. I want our programme to continue responding to those challenges, so that we always offer girls what they really need.

"And I want us to give girls an even louder voice on the issues that matter to them now – so they can help build a society they want to live in. One where they truly have the chance to be everything they can be.”

Ms Bentley has dedicated her career to the charity sector. For the last four years she has been the CEO of the sexual health charity FPA and prior to this was CEO of the personal safety charity Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which aims to provide practical support and guidance to reduce people's fear of crime, and to develop skills and strategies for keeping themselves safe.

Ms Bentley has also held senior roles in substance misuse and young people’s services and is also currently a trustee of the young people’s charity Get connected and the Housing charity Shelter.

Chief Guide Gill Slocombe said: "This is a pivotal moment for Girlguiding UK as we look forward to our next 100 years. We are delighted to welcome Julie who brings such broad third-sector experience and a strong commitment to helping young people. We look forward to all of our membership benefitting from her contribution as we enter this exciting new era.”