When I grow up – Nisha Kaura

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A child entering school has endless answers to the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Within a few brief years, these may narrow to a set of career aspirations that are consistent with the way they perceive themselves and believe they are perceived by others. Your daughter’s experience in school has one of the strongest influences on these, so addressing gender differences in the workforce requires a deep-rooted understanding of how gender and school achievement are intertwined.

The past few years have demanded ground-breaking, life-saving scientific advances. Take the example of vaccine development: such innovation has been demonstrated to be the direct result of diverse workforces, empowered to speak their minds and challenge the status quo. How are women making a difference across various roles in such industries?  And how can we as a school embody values which nurture such a culture of creative freedom, diversity of thought and deliberate inclusiveness? If we wish to make a difference not only in scholarly endeavour, but to the community in which our school sits, our job is to raise young women with confidence, create spaces for them to thrive and lead initiatives to empower our girls to see the possibilities open to them.

When our students see what leadership looks like and, as they progress through our school, work with us on school development, it becomes so much more real to them. Our students learn from an early age that they belong in the roles which we model. From the moment girls join our school, they thrive. They feel seen; their voices are heard. How are the girls around them being recognised? How are the older students being perceived? Being part of a diverse team in our school and being immersed in a culture where we encourage girls to pursue leadership roles, encourages our students to realise – from a young age – that they do not have limits; there are no boundaries to their ambitions. Thinking differently is a strength, not a weakness. Being scared of making mistakes will hinder us from doing great things. The best advice we can give our students is don’t self-limit what you think you can do: just because you can’t do it this week doesn’t mean that you can’t do it in the future. 

As a school, we develop programmes to empower our community and the wisdom to see strength of a truly diverse workforce, ensuring women have a seat at the table of change. We are acutely aware how our students may unconsciously absorb the pervasive gender bias that surrounds us to this day, both within popular culture and our social norms. That’s why foci like International Women’s Day and British Science Week are so important. #BreakTheBias is worthy of our attention. For our school, it is about making sure that we recognise enduring stereotypes and proactively challenge them.

This past week, I have witnessed it in every corner of our school. On Saturday, our Head Girls attended a meeting with our Governors, their discussions focused on capturing student voice to inform strategic development. On Monday morning, our Science Captains confidently led our Junior School’s Science Week activities in assembly and during their break times. By Tuesday, I was gleefully joining in with our Nursery girls’ role play focused on medical care (where they prescribed me a magic potion to reverse the ageing process…). The creative hubbub of entrepreneurship being born of our LIII Biz School projects on Wednesday was matched by the heart-warming, creative performance of our UII production and a week-long celebration of outstanding musical achievements of so many of our students representing our school at Woodley Festival. 

And so it goes on. There is no doubt in my mind that the girls in our school grow in confidence and ambition each day. It is for us to share our stories of how we as female teachers, mothers, sisters and daughters are making a difference to our children and society’s shared ambitions for young women of tomorrow. What a wonderful platform The Abbey is, in this pursuit.

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