Educating the #EachforEqual generation
Eve Jardine-Young, principal of Cheltenham Ladies' College, explores ways schools can educate the next generation on gender equality.
The theme for this year’s International Women's Day 2020 is #EachforEqual. The campaign recognises that gender equality is not something that we should only be thinking about on certain days of the year.
Just as we would wish to habitually be kind and respectful, an equitable approach to opportunities for all genders should inform all that we do. If we take this approach, each of our individual choices can collectively move us towards a more balanced ‘lived experience’ for us all.
So, how can we best educate the next generation to help bring about a gender-equal society?
Does single-sex education encourage gender equality?
For some people, certain elements of a single-sex education sit at odds with the idea of gender equality. I believe that teaching young people to treat each other with respect, and expect respect in return, is not a lesson that relies on having boys sitting in the classroom or walking the hallways.
We know that pupils at CLC thrive in a single-sex environment, developing confidence and resilience, unaffected by certain inhibitions and secure in the belief that nothing is beyond their reach or consideration. However, we do not stand against co-educational schools; we stand alongside them, offering parents and pupils more choice in their education and more self-determination in their futures.
The #EachforEqual campaign suggests that gender equality is about everyone finding ways to challenge stereotypes and celebrate women's achievements. Within the community I lead, single-sex education empowers our pupils to do just that, well beyond their years of formal schooling.
Leadership: It is time to stop asking whether women can have it all
This year’s #EachforEqual campaign also suggests that gender equality is a business issue. In order to take on the unimagined global challenges and opportunities of future generations, it is vital that women play a strong and creative role in all sectors of the world economy.
So, despite the ever-present glass ceiling, how do we inspire girls to become the next generation of leaders?
For over 160 years, this College has been at the forefront of girls’ education, educating young women who have gone on to become leaders and pioneers in every sector.
In my experience, great leaders are united by a determination and confidence that is inspired only by pursuing a true passion. Whether a desire to help others leads them into medicine or law, or their creative talents see them pioneering music, film or design, ultimately, it is their passion that sustains the pursuit of their goals and inspires others.
Talk of determined and ambitious young women can often lead to another question that permeates this debate: can girls really have it all? Crucially, ‘having it all’ does not mean having to do it all alone. Teaching all young people to be resilient is important, but encouraging them to be brave enough to ask for help is vital.
While environment and education are not the only factors, I believe in the lifelong impact of immersing pupils in a nurturing community, where strong female leadership is normal and debate, ambition and passion are celebrated.
Shaping our global community
I feel extremely privileged to lead a community of passionate, dedicated and talented pupils, from over 40 different countries. Progress towards gender equality is at very different stages throughout the world, and so these young women approach this, and many other issues, with a wide variety of cultural, personal and educational perspectives.
The process of asking questions and presenting challenges that other cultures, faiths or communities may not have considered, and may even have dismissed, is invaluable in our progress towards a gender-equal world.
Encouraging young women to routinely debate beliefs and ideas from across the world enables them to naturally adopt a global mindset, and encourages the kind of problem-solving and independent thought that can bring about real change in the future.
As this year’s #EachforEqual campaign suggests, all our individual actions, conversations and views have a collective impact. By encouraging pupils to lead by example and to consider their impact on every community they belong to, whether personal or global, we take a step closer to creating an inclusive world for everyone.
A pupil striking the #EachforEqual pose