Jobs for the girls: Sydenham High Head says no careers should be off-limits to girls

That was the message today from Dr Colin Laverick, Acting Headteacher of leading independent girls’ school Sydenham High, in advance of the Annual Conference of the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) in London on Wednesday 10 June.

“Do a search online for images of chief executives, or surgeons, or judges,” said Dr Laverick, “and you don’t see many women. Do a similar search for images of nurses, carers or personal assistants, and it will come as no surprise that there aren’t many men to be seen. These sorts of stereotypes permeate our national and global culture, and children can’t help but subconsciously absorb them.”

Sydenham High is perfectly placed to nurture girls’ interests and ambitions in a supportive yet challenging environment. “The education we provide is about more than exams; it’s designed to build resilient and resourceful women who see what they want and go out to get it,” said Dr Laverick. “Right across the school we highlight and celebrate the achievements of notable women in history, science and maths plus our own alumnae and show our girls that anything is possible.”

“It’s important that we consciously challenge stereotype assumptions,” added Dr Laverick. “Raising awareness of different jobs at an early age enables girls to imagine themselves in a full range of roles, and not limit their horizons too early or too readily.”  The school’s career and PSHE programmes robustly address this.  In fact the Junior School’s latest co-curricular programme, Flourish and Fly, is designed to ensure girls are equipped to look beyond real or perceived obstacles to reach their full potential and aspire to any career they wish. Each half term has taken on one of the four Girls’ Day School Trust values – Be Bold; Girls First; Be Principled and Networked – as its theme, culminating in a week of activities, challenges and speaker visits to bring that particular value to life.

The current Flourish and Fly theme of ‘being networked’ is also at the heart of this year’s GDST Annual Conference which is entitled: ‘Circles of Influence – enhancing employability and creating a culture of networking’. Delegates will also hear from speakers including Sacha Romanovitch, CEO-elect of Grant Thornton UK LLP and a panel of GDST heads and students – all of whom will address the issue and its implications for girls, women and wider society.

“Girls should feel that all doors are open to them,” concluded Dr Laverick, “and that’s what we’ll be discussing in our conference this week. If they feel they can achieve anything they set their mind to, before they come into contact with unhelpful stereotypes, they’ll be less likely to be swayed by them. When it comes to their careers, I’m proud that Sydenham High girls write their own rules.”

You can follow the GDST Annual Conference on Twitter using #GDSTnetworked.