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A Wish List for Educating Women

Last week, I was fortunate to have attended the United Kingdom Girls’ Schools Association Annual Conference in Oxford from Sunday to Tuesday. We are a group of educators charged with the important task of teaching, coaching and guiding girls, and it is powerful to gather, discuss and reflect on important common topics and issues.

Sessions focused on subjects such as teacher training, women and philanthropy, girls’ enrolment in physics, international partnerships, and the pursuit of success. I left with nuggets of wisdom from all; however, the session about Leadership in the 21st Century by Professor Ngaire Woods, Dean of Blavatnik School of Government and Professor of Global Economic Governance, has stayed front of mind as I returned to St. Clement’s at the end of this week.

In her presentation, Professor Woods reflected on political upheavals and the populist movement, stressing the need for public leaders to model “selfless purpose, impartiality and competence.” While this was great insight, it was her ‘wish list’ of items for educating our girls and young women and her presence that struck a chord.

First, Professor Woods impressed upon us that we must ensure we encourage women to get to know what it is they want and to go after it. She explained that too often women walk into meetings and / or gatherings beautifully attuned to others’ needs at the cost of achieving their own purpose. Women must learn to own- and articulate- their purpose.

Second, we must be bold. We must be proud of our intellect, not apologetic. As Professor Woods explained, there is an important difference between assertiveness and aggression. Women must be encouraged to assert their beliefs and capacity.

Finally, Professor Woods stressed that women must work less on being liked and far more on being trusted.

Professor Woods was an exceptional speaker who delivered sage advice to all in attendance. More importantly, she took her space, demonstrated boldness and, in doing so, brought credibility to her message. She modelled what it is she would want for all women.

A good reminder for all of us to do the same.

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