Girls should be ‘realistic’ about careers and motherhood – schools group head

This article in the Guardian has caused a bit of a storm. 230 comments and counting….

Teenage girls need to be taught a heavy dose of realism – that it may not be possible to be a perfect mother and a career woman, the president of the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA) will say next week. Jill Berry, headteacher of Dame Alice Harpur school in Bedford, will tell leading private girls’ schools that their pupils face an unprecedented amount of pressure to be a “perfect woman”. While clever girls should aim high, there is nothing wrong with them working part-time or not at all when they have children, she will say. Speaking ahead of the association’s annual conference in Harrogate on Monday, Berry said schools had to prepare girls early for the challenges and choices they would face later in life. Statistics show four-fifths of the 110,000 pupils educated in schools represented by the GSA will have children, Berry said. She said: “A lot of our girls want to have it all. That is perfectly acceptable and anything we can do to prepare them, we will. But we need to make them realistic. At different stages of their lives, they may want different things. “There is nothing wrong with them saying ‘I need to work part-time’ or ‘I need support in order to enable me to do my career and have children’. “Women can feel very guilty, whatever path they choose. It is as if they have somehow compromised their principles. What we can do as teachers is prepare them to have aspirations, but not aim for perfection. We can help them recognise that life is about balance.”

While I agree there is pressure to be a “perfect woman” – schools would do well to teach that there “is another way” to either not working at all or the straight 9-5 mon – fri. The portfolio career is ideal for the mother who wants to work. Organising the work around HER not her around the work. The sooner we help pupils to find their strengths and help them play to them – the better for all society….and its children.


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