Gender matters : facing the challenge in girls' schools
Speaking late in 2007 at an equal opportunity forum, John McFarlane, then CEO of ANZ Bank, stated that the reason why so few women get to senior positions is because men do not promote them. For anyone involved in the business of teaching girls, and especially those working in a girls' school, the implications of such a statement are profound and constitute one in a range of complex challenges that currently face girls, as individuals, and girls' schools as educational institutions. One of the largest challenges is the contradiction between what school teachers and administrators tell girls they can do and what they actually face in terms of gender politics, social structures and economic realities once they leave school. On the one hand, it is increasingly the case that girls are emerging from girls' schools in particular as highly successful. On the other hand, however, when they leave school, girls are confronted by a society in which their aspirations and abilities are often regarded not only as of less worth than those of a male but as something to be treated with derision. The challenges for girls' schools are thus many and varied. In an environment where competition for public and private resources and support is increasing, girls' schools must continue to develop new and imaginative strategies that will ensure they are able to continue providing educational settings in which girls take centre stage, for surely this is what girls' schools understand to be their core business. Teachers are creating an institutional and classroom setting in which girls can express themselves freely and frequently, develop higher-order thinking skills and dare to take on new challenges in an environment that is both dynamic and supportive. [Author abstract, ed]
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