When I sit down to put my thoughts together for my blog, I always feel optimistic about our girls’ futures. Having said that, as I write this blog post, I look back on this week as being one of deep reflection about the importance of girls’ and women’s voices both within our walls and after they leave.
Through a confluence of conversations with students, parents, alumnae and exchange students, as well as events in the news, it has become increasingly evident that despite structures and processes being in place, there are always things that can be improved to ensure that girls and women use their voices to facilitate change.
Having said this, it has been through these conversations that I am reminded that situations and/or events do not always afford an ease for voices either to be heard or even to be expressed, and these reminders must be used to reflect on our own practices and how we can continue to improve.
One such conversation was with three exchange students who were with us from Vidya Devi Jindal School (VDJS) in Hisar, India. When we met, we talked about the role of women in each of our countries, and the VDJS girls indicated that, as women in India, they believe there is still a long way to go before women will be respected as equals, and for women to feel completely safe. The girls suggested that this inequity could be attributed to being from a developing country but then expressed just how surprised they were that women in Canada were also not treated equally when it came to equal pay for equal work.
Another conversation was with an alumna who told me about her visit with an SCS classmate who is working in London, UK on the trading floor. She explained that this woman is dealing with constant and blatant sexist and inappropriate behaviour from men at work. I was assured that she deals with it exceptionally well, but I still left frustrated that she has to deal with it at all.
Finally, for those of us who have been following the news this week, it is evident that there continues to be much about which to be concerned regarding women’s sense of safety and empowerment to speak up. While not in the position to comment on alleged events surrounding Jian Ghomeshi’s relationships, I have found myself struggling as I listen to women being interviewed about their experiences in this situation. In many of the discussions, I have felt great disappointment that processes and perhaps societal structures left some of the women questioning their own role, uncertain as to whether someone would believe them, particularly because of the power dynamic when engaging with a celebrity.
Our students’ experience at a girls’ school affords them an opportunity to discover, grow and develop their identities and their voices in order that they are proud of who they are as individuals, but even more importantly so that they can leave us as confident and courageous women.
I believe through conversation and reflection we can and must always be looking to refine our own processes and practices to nurture their voices both for while they are with us and for when they leave.