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Posted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 02, 2014
Young Girls

Most women no longer have to choose between having a family and pursuing a career, but care needs to be taken when promoting the idea of ‘having it all’ to schoolgirls, says the head of the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST).

Speaking on the first day of the annual GDST Young Leaders’ Conference last week, Helen Fraser said that ‘having it all’ is now the norm for women and it’s “misogynistic” to apply the phrase exclusively to women.

Mrs Fraser says schools could play a key role in dispelling this “1950s notion” which has little meaning in modern society. “I don’t like the phrase ‘having it all’,” she said. “Not only because it’s never applied to men but because it makes a girl feel that when she leaves university she has to make a decision between having a full and rewarding career or a wonderful relationship and children. It shouldn’t have to be a choice.

The second question we received at our conference from one of our head girls was ‘how do you combine motherhood and work?’ I do think this is something that is on girls minds. 

Mrs Fraser continued by saying that, while girls should be told that they shouldn’t see choosing between a career and a family as a choice, it was also important that schools worked to address ‘perfectionist’ attitudes that girls more frequently display, which can cause undue stress. 

 “Girls have a great tendency to be perfectionists,” she said. “They want all their work to be perfect, they want to get everything right, but one of the things they have to realise is that, if you become a working mum, you won’t be perfect.

“You won’t be a perfect wife, you won’t be a perfect worker, you won’t be a perfect mother, but you have to say to yourself that your husband, your boss and your child is perhaps getting 70 or 80 per cent of someone who is fantastic, and they are lucky to have you.”

However, speaking about the idea that having a career and family should be seen as ‘having it all’, Mrs Fraser said: “What I don’t like about the phrase is that it sounds greedy. It’s like someone saying ‘you want a job, a house, a husband and children? That’s too much; you shouldn’t feel like you can have all that’.

“My point is that people never apply that phrase to men. Most men expect to have a relationship, a family and a job. I would rather people said to girls, if you want to, you can expect to have a relationship, a job and a child, it’s a perfectly reasonable aspiration and you’ll find a way to do it.

Mrs Fraser said that highlighting this point to teenage girls while they are still at school could mean that, when they graduate, they will not ever feel held back by having to make a choice.

Full article by Josie Gurney-Read, Online Education Editor

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