GDST Summit drives change with New Rules

Educators from GDST and feeder schools gathered on 19 September 2019 to hear from experts, students and GDST alumnae on how to prepare young women for a world of radical change, as part of the GDST’s striking conference: New Rules, chaired by Journalist & Broadcaster, Samira Ahmed. The Summit was opened by Chief Executive, Cheryl Giovannoni, who spoke about the need to reshape and rewrite the rules as the old ones simply aren’t working. It’s time for men and women to work together to design the future and tear up the outdated ideas of leadership and closed doors. She talked about her mantra when she began her career of being confident, capable and credible and how we should be working as a squad to drive change together in a collegiate way, inspiring and encouraging other women. The overarching message was that it is time to believe in ourselves and be agents of change in education in order to equip our girls for the future so that they are bold, brave and brilliant, financially independent and aware of their own worth. We have purpose and purchase and we can change the world for the better.

Dame Cilla Snowball followed this up  by discussing the importance of girls not just learning how to navigate the system but how they can change it, so that there are no limits except your own ability, and how this systemic change would bring about gender equality faster than the predicted 127 years to close the gender pay gap. She gave the audience eight accelerators for change:

  1. Equip girls to change the system.
  2. Smash stereotypes: remove limiting attitudes by taking all opportunities to try new things – it’s only crazy until you do it! We need to redraw the balance in terms of gendered skills or jobs and remove the imposter syndrome felt by many women.
  3. Wellbeing is central.
  4. Speak up: find your voice against injustice as well as talking about ‘taboo’ subjects such as periods, but also ask for help, it isn’t a weakness.
  5. Plenty of relatable role models: you are never too old to need  a role model, or too young to be one. Great Thunberg is a fabulous example of what can done to galvanise a generation into action.
  6. Bring businesses into schools: access to business leaders so that girls can see what is possible.
  7. Embrace diversity.
  8. Do all these with kindness: a hugely underrated leadership quality.

Dame Snowball also talked about the important role of advertisers in removing stereotyping, showing three excellent advertising campaigns that broke gender stereotypes in a really powerful way:

This Girl Can
Redraw the balance
Take them all on

She also spoke of the importance of integrity, speaking truthfully and heroing those with integrity, as well as keeping men as allies, showing them there is nothing to fear and much to gain from diversity.

Next came a fascinating panel discussion on the future of education with Yomi Adegoke (author of Slay in Your Lane), Vicky Bingham (Head of South Hampstead High), Anna Lapwood (alumna and Director of Music, Pembroke College Cambridge), Justine Roberts CBE (founder of Mumsnet) and Dr Joseph Spence (Master of Dulwich College). They discussed education from a range of angles: black excellence and the importance of not sheltering pupils from sexism and racism but equipping them to speak out against them, how important gendered spaces are for learning, how to empower women and remove gender stereotyping. There was a focus on encouraging girls to take the lead but also to learn how to network and socialise to build up their confidence and share some of the entitlement that is found in their male counterparts. There was also an interesting discussion about being proud of yourself as a human rather than by gender, and a focus on philosophy and ethics to maintain humanity as well as learning the technological requirements in a world where AI is becoming more prevalent. Career preparation was a hot topic, with the realisation that we are providing pupils with a set of skills to deploy in the workplace rather than necessarily for one specific role, and how important it is to support changes of heart, allowing young people the freedom to explore new things as passion is just as key as gaining qualifications.

As part of the Summit the audience was asked to submit their suggestions for new rules. Three were selected via public vote:

  1. Be yourself, without regrets or limitations, be authentic and challenge conformity.
  2. Get rid of the stigma about having a family as well as being career driven.
  3. Success is subjective. Own your achievements and accept them without comparing.

The afternoon key note speaker was Dr Daniel Susskind, who made us all think about the future of the professions, whether that be a more efficient version of the system we have now or discovering creative ways to solve the problems we are using the professions for, through new technologies. He described the professions as ‘creaking’ and in our internet society, with exponential growth in AI it would appear that we are moving towards digitisation of various tasks rather than maintaining the traditional gatekeepers of knowledge. The rate of development in software is not necessarily going to result in being replaced by machines but there might be a change in how jobs are completed in terms of splitting tasks between humans and machines for greater efficiency – redeployment rather than unemployment. He linked this back to education in terms of two strategies: teaching interpersonal skills and problem solving that would allow humans to compete with machines, as well as teaching the skills to build the machines in the first place. There were some testing questions about social care and whether the value of the human factor for such roles will increase once technology replaces other aspects of medical roles for example. Dr Susskind summarised by saying that it is more important to develop a lifelong love of learning and to consider the problems that the professions are there to solve and how they might be solved in alternatives ways, such as through the use of AI.

It was a fascinating day and everyone felt their passions reinvigorated. Now comes the challenge of applying what we have learnt back in our schools! Watch this space…