Women in Education

I’m hoping you had the chance to read the recent Weekend Australian.

It featured a liftout on Women in Education and included some insightful conversations around the benefits of girls’ only education and confirmed many messages we have been sharing with our girls. Curiosity, adaptability and the flexibility to ‘learn, unlearn, and re-learn’ are the secrets to success. Couple these characteristics with resilience, confidence, a growth mindset and cultural intelligence and your professional future is looking very bright indeed.

Our girls need to know their strengths and their unique ‘value add’ in an ever-changing post-schooling landscape. Educators are often asked, “Is the school educating and preparing my child for life? It’s a very valid question, to which I often reply, “Education is life.” Gone are the days when a university degree provides all the education you need for the next 50 years of your professional career. While a university degree provides you with a strong foundation in a field of choice, lifelong learning is vital. We must all continue to build, develop, upskill and retrain. At the current rate of change, some university qualifications will be out of date before the HECS bill is paid off, and the fast rate of change may never be this slow again!

If, as parents, we reflect on our own journey through school and university, how much of what we learnt are we applying in our current careers and positions? My learning journey, from beginning as a Music Teacher at Kalkadoon State High School in Mt Isa in the 1990’s (before the internet!) to the role of Principal at St Hilda’s today, has only been made possible due to a curious nature, adaptability, resilience, and an ongoing investment in upskilling, further education, training and learning. And, I might add, significant sacrifices and relentless hard work. Each step of the journey has been amazing and has brought great career satisfaction. As life learners we are always evolving. We know more today than we did yesterday. I’m already thinking about what leadership will look like in education in the next 20 years. What will I need to learn to successfully lead a learning community in five or ten years? Traditional thinking along the lines of “we’ve always done it this way” will be crippling to any organisation and industry, especially education.

We know that thinking and problem solving skills and an ability to relate to and work with others will always be needed. We also know that encouraging our girls to set high expectations for themselves, to be challenged in their learning and to be ambitious, is a positive thing. As females, many of us are fortunate to have strong relational abilities, influential communication skills, empathy and high levels of emotional intelligence. We need to use these innate attributes to our advantage. They are significant players in the modern world.

I have recently been invited to take up a 12 month role in an Advisory Group for Women in Educational Leadership with AISWA to facilitate an Aspiring Women Leaders Network. This is a great opportunity to assist in the planning of a cohesive vision and strategy for aspiring women leaders in education in WA. When women support women, incredible things can happen. This is the power of sisterhood that I refer to so often with our girls.

In closing I pass on the wonderful advice from Old Scholar, Rebecca Johnson, who shared her life experiences with our Year 10 girls and mothers at the International Women’s Day Breakfast. She couldn’t get ‘a seat at the table’ in an area that she was passionate about (establishing a centre for families to support Type 1 diabetes) so she built her own table! She credited her confidence to do this from her time at St Hilda’s. Our girls are so fortunate to hear from trail blazing women, fearless women, assertive women, brave women and courageous women through our networks. All of these women have one thing in common – they all wore the powder blue!

Thank you for the incredible gift you give your girls each day by choosing St Hilda’s.