Last week the Head Mistress of an independent girls school, Vivienne Durham caused an outcry in female circles by saying girls definitely CANNOT have it all, feminism is over and girls must accept that they cannot have a family AND a career. She went on to say we must not lie to girls by telling them there is no glass ceiling and that having a career is easy.
I have been asked to comment on her view so many times this past week I thought it was easier to blog my response, so here goes…..
At first I was outraged by her comments, but after reading the full article I felt sad and exhausted that we are still having conversations about girls and women that are so far away from where we need to be. Whilst I accept we should not be misleading girls to believe there is no glass ceiling or that our work to obtain gender parity across all areas of public life is done, to suggest they give up, lie down and just accept their lot is NOT the way forward is it? Did we not fight for the right to choose? Career, motherhood or both???
I wonder where we would be if the suffragettes decided to just accept the status quo? Yes it is hard sometimes, yes being a working Mum is a challenge and yes our society does not value motherhood as much as it should. but encouraging girls to make decisions that restrict their choices or suggest opting out of the whole ‘work thing’ altogether, is disempowering and will put us back years.
A better manifesto would be to teach girls to pick up the mantle for equality, demand better working conditions for working parents, expect equal pay and here’s the biggy …. stop assuming full responsibility for domestic chores and parenting – what about the boys on this debate? Are we telling them they can’t have it all? Are we raising them to be working fathers? Until we change and let go of the1950’s idea of parenting, shift the culture and language around parental responsibility and recognise that the world of work needs an overhaul in order for women to shine, the journey is far from over.
So let’s inspire and empower our girls to think big, demand more and go one better than us by accepting nothing less than equality in their relationships, with or without kids, and rather than moan about the slow journey along the talent pipeline let’s equip them with aspirational glass hammers. Surely this is better than telling them not to bother?
Even Miss Jean Brodie wanted more for ‘her girls’ in the 1930’s!