“Be Bold For Change” is the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day (8 March), its aim to “forge a better working world – a more inclusive, gender equal world”. The news is full of stories about the gender pay gap, the glass ceiling and under-representation of women in key areas of the workforce, so this particular peon for change seems timely.
Yet if change is really to happen – rather than just be talked about – it must be driven not just through the world of work but through our education and values systems, too. With this in mind, here are five initiatives that are striving not just to widen opportunities for girls but also to change the way they imagine their futures.
- A Mighty Girl – http://www.amightygirl.com/ – claims to be “The world’s largest collection of books, toys and movies for smart, confident, and courageous girls”. It’s not just about physical resources, though. Through its daily celebration of heroes, it opens our eyes to today’s women who are pressing ahead in fields where traditionally men have predominated, while also sharing the stories of those overlooked by much of written history. It promotes literature and visual arts with strong female protagonists and suggests PSHE resources designed to encourage girls to aim well beyond traditional boundaries.
- Specialist physics teachers in independent girls’ schools collaborating with non-specialists in state schools
This initiative, recently announced by the Girls’ Schools Association and due to start from September, aims to pair independent schools with Specialist Physics Teachers with state schools that have had to rely on non-specialists to deliver their A level teaching. The scheme is specifically aimed at improving the quality of teaching at A level and at encouraging girls not just to take A level physics but to consider studying the subject at a higher level and then teaching it themselves. According to the 2015 report from Ofsted into A level subject take-up, for every ten boys taking physics there are only three girls. Much work clearly needs to be done in order to counter this disparity but this initiative seems like a useful starting point.
- co.uk – https://www.notgoingtouni.co.uk
This organisation offers careers advice and information about apprenticeships for those not wanting to pursue a university degree. While it is a useful resource for any student wanting to take a less academic route into a career, its blog articles and case studies may be particularly inspirational for girls considering opportunities in STEM fields.
- Girls Out Loud (http://girlsoutloud.org.uk/) runs programmes designed to help girls navigate their transition through the emotional and social difficulties often presented by adolescence. The programmes aim to help girls develop confidence, build self-esteem and identify healthy role models. At a time when the number of teenagers suffering from mental health issues is rising alarmingly, with girls particularly at risk, this is an invaluable service.
- This Girl Can – http://www.thisgirlcan.co.uk/
This initiative has been receiving publicity in the media for a while but remains a vital part of the campaign to inspire young girls to discover the many benefits and possibilities available through participation in sport and so build habits that will stand them – and their health – in good stead for the rest of their lives.
There is something shameful about the fact that positive action and discrimination are still needed in order to help girls to take full advantage of the many opportunities that our society has to offer. Let’s hope that every girl who makes use of even just one of these resources receives the boost they need to access the sorts of choices boys have been enjoying for decades.
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