Urmston Grammar is proud to be a co-educational school. It is our aim to ensure that all students, girls and boys, achieve their full potential. But as today is International Women’s Day I would like to focus on the females in our school community – it is essential that every girl who leaves this school knows she is every bit as good as her male counterparts.
We instil a strong work ethic, self-belief, compassion and ambition in all our students.
As was pointed out in the whole school assembly on Monday, it is difficult to avoid the glaring lack of women in STEM careers.
The recent Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures told the story of three women who broke through the barrier of gender and race during the space race of the 1960s. Their heroism until now had gone unknown and unacknowledged. Without the brilliance of their maths, the astronaut John Glenn would not have been launched into orbit.
Films like this are hugely important. I believe in the adage “If they can see it, they can be it”. Young people are inspired by the role models they see around them. It is far less daunting to aim for the top when you see it can be, and already has been, done.
You might be surprised to know that even in education, while traditionally considered a female-dominated profession, the overall proportion of women taking on headteacher positions is not reflected by the number of women in the workforce; according to figures from the Future Leaders Trust. In secondary schools, 38 per cent of teaching staff are male and 62 per cent are female. But when it comes to headteachers, the numbers are reversed: just 36 per cent are women.
While some students are fully embracing the resurgence of feminism, it is of little surprise many young people, both girls and boys, go out into the world as fledging adults with the subconscious bias that no matter how many women go into a particular sector the men will always somehow rise to the top. How dispiriting an example this is, to girls in school.
We have a duty to ensure that all students understand that equality is good for boys too. Society can only be at its best when all parties are working together, contributing and supporting each other to be the best they can be.
As a society, we need to continue to encourage young people to go beyond stereotypes and recognise the contributions that each individual, male or female, can make to the workplace and to relationships at home. For this year’s International Women’s Day, I want to say to our students: don’t be hidden figures. When you achieve, let everyone see how good you are. Strive for the top, help each other to excel. One day you will be the inspiration for those who will follow you. Let them know that their efforts will count.