There is plenty of press coverage recently being given to the pay gap between men and women. The resignation of Carrie Gracie, China editor for the BBC, said she was resigning from her post because of the gender pay gap at the corporation accusing it of a “secretive and illegal” pay culture. A BBC review of its pay structure in 2017 found that men are being paid 9.3% more than women on average and that nearly 500 employee may be getting paid less than colleagues in a similar role simply because of their gender. #metoo and the revelations about the pay gap at the BBC and elsewhere show (once again) that the world is often stacked against women.
All the research shows that this ‘gendering’ starts very early – science and games for boys, art and whatever else for girls. And that early confidence is key. It’s hard to argue with this.
However, on the more positive side there’s a tremendous amount of work going on to take down gender barriers and to make opportunities equally available to girls as they are to boys particularly in schools. It’s easy to fixate on headline grabbing news which throws the spotlight on yet another gender injustice and forget all the really good work that’s going on. Understandably headlines are illustrative of the issue thereby ignoring what’s happening in our schools.
Being a head of a girls only prep school I have the responsibility to ensure that our girls grow up believing that they can do anything they want to. There shouldn’t be any limits to their ambitions, their hopes and dreams and they truly believe they have an equal chance of succeeding in the working world. Having three daughters of my own, I am in tune as I can be with the sorts of barriers they sometimes come up against.
Knighton does not allow girls to be shouted down or stereotyped – in fact our girls feel they can do anything – and so when they go on to the senior schools they reject the stereotypes and demand their due at school and ultimately at work. The answer is confidence. Boys are innately confident, often over confident. Girls are innately unconfident. In previous coeducational schools I taught at, it was nearly always the boys who would stick their hand up confidently when a visiting speaker would ask whether they could match their achievements by rowing single-handedly across the Atlantic or walking on a tightrope suspended between two buildings; their confidence was very often misplaced, bravado at best!
If our girls can master being confident in their own abilities; being confident in who they are and what they believe in, then we have a strong message to shout about.