In college, I took my first Women’s Studies course, which put some language around challenges I had faced as a young girl: discrimination on the sports field, the need to work twice as hard as boys to be taken seriously in school, an expectation that I would be compliant and not make ripples for others. As I reached teenhood, these challenges grew. There was harassment by male peers, the anxiety about belonging (or not), and a lack of confidence regarding my social status, my body, and my desirability.
I assumed I would master some of these challenges over time—the internal challenges—and that the systemic ways our society addresses girls and women would shift as well to allow more opportunities for all girls and women.
Thirty years later, despite some real gains, my younger self would have been surprised and dispirited to know how many obstacles still remain for girls and women, and how girls and young women of all races, classes, and sexual orientations are bearing the brunt of social anxieties and forces beyond their control. I would have been equally disappointed to see how girls of color continue to deal with the headwinds of discrimination layered onto gender-oriented struggles.
Throughout my personal and professional life—my dissertation research, my high school and undergraduate teaching, my experience leading P-8 educational programs, and my counseling work with adolescent girls—I have seen firsthand hundreds of girls and young women wrestling with these challenges. Through all these struggles, these young women continue to impress me with their resilience and fortitude.
This past week we saw the Golden Globes snub women filmmakers. We also saw the commencement of the Harvey Weinstein criminal trials. Also this week, the Labor Department announced that women now outnumber men in the US workforce, yet still lag behind in pay. Even in these few examples – and there are many more – we see the power of the status quo in controlling and limiting women’s progress. We can do better for our daughters, our nieces, our granddaughters, our mentees, our students.
I hope you will join us next Wednesday, January 22, at 8:30 am for a presentation by Katie Hurley, LCSW, a child and adolescent psychotherapist, author, and speaker. Katie will talk with us about how to raise strong, confident, compassionate girls who can embrace their sturdiness and grow up expecting to thrive.
Even if you are the parent of boys, I urge you to attend so you can help your sons understand their role in making our society more equitable for their female relatives and friends. This presentation is open to adults from outside of our Turning Point community, so please feel free to invite a friend.
Until more women share power and influence in every arena, we will continue to eke out incremental changes rather than transform our society. There is still much work to be done, and we owe it to our young people to guide and support this work. Our girls are fully able and ready to bring their talents and strengths to any arena they choose; they should not have to wonder if they are innately equipped to walk through the door to get there.
Head of School