What Girls Need to Succeed in the 21st Century…

A Path for the Future

Our school year has begun with the introduction of BC’s “redesigned” curriculum. Since September, we’ve been hosting workshops for families to talk about the new curriculum. The backdrop for these very enjoyable discussions has been the question, “What will our students need to succeed in the 21st century?”

As a leader in the girls’ section of the school, I’ve spent my time recently thinking specifically about what girls will need to succeed in the 21st century. How might that differ from what students will need in general?  For all students, strong foundational literacy in math and language, digital fluency, the capacity to collaborate, problem solve, and to think creatively and critically are now identified as essential competencies to prepare students for future jobs that are not yet imagined.

The research is clear – students will need new skills for the 21st century; the redesigned curriculum supports this and the work of our school is well underway to prepare our students for success. For our girls, however, we need to add another skill. We need to teach them how to fight. As President Obama so eloquently put it, women need “to fight for their seat at the table”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joAEru9mrF8

Why? Because here we are in 2016 and the news about women in the global workforce is less than glowing. Women now graduate from college in greater numbers than men; they graduate from law school in roughly equal numbers; they make up about a third of MBAs. But just 3% of Fortune 500 CEO’s and 15% of board directors at those companies are women.

In Canada, there continues to be a significant pay gap for men and women with the same qualifications. On average, women earn 18% less than their male counterparts:  http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/gender-equality-workplace-1.3326221

So when I say fight, I don’t mean put on the boxing gloves. I mean we need to teach girls to develop their resilience to be able to bounce back from challenging setbacks. We need them to show grit, to have resolve and the courage to keep going when the going gets tough. We need to teach them about confidence.  Women consistently underestimate their abilities: http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/sarsons/files/confidence_final.pdf?m=1437407065

It is our responsibility to help them recognize that their voices both deserve and need to be heard if the dismal statistics described above are to change anytime soon.

How do we do it? We give girls a safe learning environment in which they can test their ideas and critique each other with rigour and empathy.


We recognize our global similarities and differences and we encourage our girls to create a collective voice to combat injustice when it emerges in the global arena. We teach girls to take action and to seek to understand other points of view. And we always expect them to do their best.

~Deborah Cook, Senior School Principal




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