Tena koutou katoa. Nga mihi atawhai nui.
This week is the celebration of International Women’s Week and I refer you to an article from the most recent edition of the Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia. This article focuses on the 2022 theme #BreakTheBias.
‘Biases regulate women’s behaviour, opportunity, and access at every point of contact between the sexes. A frequent refrain has been that women need only be more confident and self-assured to overcome bias-fuelled disadvantage.
Studies have repeatedly shown that single-sex environments build confidence and self-worth for women and girls, and while this equips girls for the world ‘that is’ — in their new book, Confidence Culture — UK-based professors Rosalind Gill and Shani Orgad urge society to step up. They say create a world where young women don’t need to ‘lean in’ and ‘bolster up’ their confidence to superhuman levels, in order to thrive on equal footing with males.
The authors refer to the culmination of years of research on society’s approach to confidence in women. They say that influencers and the media continue to prey on women and girls’ insecurities “with imperatives, programmes and interventions” that “encourage us to undertake extensive work on the self” — rather than “calling out structural inequalities that are the real source of the problems women face”.
The message is clear; rather than an “individualised and psychologised confidence culture” for girls, “we need to invest in building and sustaining social structures and policies that support, ensure and reinforce women’s safety, well-being and power” (Gill & Orgad, 2022). Only then will we break the bias and allow individual girls to be just as happy and successful as an equally confident and self-assured male child emerging into the world we have shaped for them.
Confidence does support girls in the face of adversity, and — considering Fitzsimmons et al.’s (2018) finding that Australian girls educated in single-sex schools are equally as self-confident as boys educated in single-sex schools — at least when students attend an all-girls school, they can enjoy one setting where the bias is already broken’.
Educating Girls Podcast: The Alliance produces a podcast featuring interviews with local and international educational leaders and experts in their field.