How some people view the past is often a customised and revised version of the fact. We tend to view history through the lens of the present. The present, of course, reflects changed values, new attitudes and different contexts. A new chronology of generations owns the present day. Who precedes us and succeeds us in our professional life and in our social spaces matters. The upshot is that conditions can improve, but they may also decline. For the generations of women on the planet today, conditions in general have improved, and in some areas at a breathtaking speed in the last five to 10 years.
Our School was built on a base of determination, resilience and visionary thinking. In 1926, four women founded Canberra Girls Grammar with the belief that every young woman should receive an education. Driven to see young women flourish in their education, the founders not only built a school, but also created a culture of learning and forward thinking. In a time when the expectations of women’s education were not overly high, this vision was revolutionary to say the least. The Sisters’ conviction to open up pathways for women set the tone for the School. A tone that is still with us today. From humble beginnings, Canberra Girls Grammar is the home of courageous and brave-hearted children and young women. St Gabriel’s, our founding school, educated young boys and girls in the early years, and then as the students grew towards early adolescence, established a girls-only upper Primary and Secondary school.
In the present day, described as the Age of the Individual, of anti-institutional sentiment and mass activism, CGGS remains strong and relevant. In January, I wrote: ‘education does not just change opportunities for children and women at university or in the workforce. It protects them in all aspects of their life, where children and young women live, where they gather, and where they work – it bolsters every facet. In a world where we are all hoping to lessen the effects of the challenges we face, education is our contribution, and in 2020, educating young people has never been such a noble pursuit’.
This week we celebrated the 109th International Women’s Day. For 109 years, we have been nudging towards a society that values diversity, is inclusive, and is empowering for all. An equal world is an enabled world. Individually, we are all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day. Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender equal world.
At Assembly this week, I reminded the girls of their role in this complex societal challenge and their language and attitudes. I asked them to think about paying extra attention to what they are saying, how they are saying it, and any words or phrases they commonly use that could be undermining them. I invited them to use less passive, imprecise or disempowering phrases that diminish how they present. The girls were reminded that words shape their reality; conversations build their currency of influence, and to own their value, stand tall in their worth, and speak their opinion respectfully.
If the current trends continue, the Global Gender Gap[i] report states that the first year of gender equality will be 2133. But there are great changes, and change that is occurring positively and rapidly, and for this we are, and must remain grateful.
Mrs Anna Owen
[i] World Economic Forum, 2017. The global gender gap report. Geneva: World Economic Forum.