Inspiring Change – International Women’s Day 2014

Today, as I write my blog, is International Women’s Day. Some girls at BGS would ask why would we need to single out a day to raise the profile of women? They do not see any evidence at school of sexual discrimination or gender stereotyping. They are encouraged to take part in every aspect of school life. Nothing is restricted to them. They believe this is the norm.

As educated young adults, they are of course, very much aware of the difficulties women in many developing countries face. They understand that social progress comes with the education of women. They are encouraged to make a difference and support campaigns to provide girls’ education. It is apt then that the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is Inspiring Change as this reflects one of our key goals for girls at BGS.

I am proud that they feel empowered to make a difference and they are confident that they can succeed in whatever field of work sparks their interest. They see no barriers to their sex and grasp the opportunities presented to them.

So why do I still feel, as a woman, that we have a long way to go? Is it that women are still judged more for the way they look than the quality of their thoughts? Is it because the back pages still fail to adequately represent women’s sport? Is it that in India only one in 100 girls is educated to the age of 16? or is it the report I read in the Guardian recently that the sexualised marketing of young women, particularly, in classical music has also now become normalised?

But it is also closer to home. Gender stereotyping still exists in our society, it was recently illustrated in a conversation I had with mothers who told me that girls cannot do Maths. Their evidence was a shortage of girls in top Maths sets in co-ed classrooms. It is comments like these that perpetuate the myth that girls cannot do Maths and leads to the shortage of women in Science, Engineering and Mathematics. Girls can do Maths and excel in Maths. We need to appreciate that they learn differently to boys, they mature at different rates. If you teach Maths in the way you teach boys Maths, girls will find it harder. Girls at BGS are taught Maths in a way that is accessible to them, they feel inspired. There is no shortage of girls in our Maths classes, it is a popular A Level choice.

BGS allows girls to thrive. They excel as much in Physics, Engineering and Design Technology as they do in English, Drama and Art. Research by Ofsted has revealed that girls at single-sex schools are more likely to avoid preparing for “stereotypically female” careers than their contemporaries in co-educational schools. We open girls’ eyes to possibilities and help them to take the practical and imaginative steps necessary to achieve their ambitions. Whatever she wants to be – aeronautical engineer, musician, doctor, retail manager, RAF pilot, fashion designer – it’s our aim to support and guide her.

Whilst our girls feel empowered, many in the wider world do not. I feel the role of International Women’s Day is to continue to inspire change and educate parents about the dangers of gender stereotyping.

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