Girls still seen as homemakers

“Girls are still being brought up to believe that raising children is more important than their own ambitions”, according to Hilary French, president of the Girls’ Schools Association.**

Ms French, who is also the headmistress of Central Newcastle High School for Girls, told the Press Association that it was “probably still the assumption” that the women of the household would deal with such things as childcare, and expressed concerns that this may have a negative impact on how they formulate their educational and career ambitions.

Third year Warwick student and founder of feminist blog [](, Louisa Ackermann, said of Ms French’s comments: “women now have more opportunities than ever to excel in their careers, but it’s patently clear that we have not yet reached an age of equality.

“The term ‘career woman’ is still somewhat remarkable to us (when has any man been called a ‘career man’?), whilst ‘househusband’ remains a rarity in our lexicon.”

Ms French added: “we are still creating a generation of girls who think that the whole idea of looking after children is really the most important thing, once you have a child.”

“Despite women’s educational achievements, they are still expected to be the homemaker”, she said.

She also added that universities could play a key role in “opening a door” for women, saying “yes, you need your exam results, you need your degree, but it’s a passport for opening a door, getting through a door… it’s so good that girls’ schools, really good schools, and universities do so much more than teach the subjects.”

Ms French’s concerns come at a time when we are seeing a higher number of female university applicants than male, since tuition fees nearly trebled this academic year to £9,000.

Despite this, Alys Cooke, Women’s officer at Warwick Students’ Union, said the fact that girls were still being brought up in this way was a real concern.

“It’s true that there are more women entering university than previously, but there are still degrees that are hugely gender segregated”, she said.

“Only 37 percent of students studying technology, science, and engineering degrees are female. Girls in schools should be made aware of the choices available to them, and encouraged to study the subjects they are interested in, regardless of gender stereotypes that may exist.”

However, she maintained that “it is also perfectly valid for women to choose to be homemakers, if that is a choice they actively make, and do not undertake simply as a result of assumed roles in the family.

“Socialisation of young girls is hugely important; ideas surrounding choice have to come from the home as well as the school. However, the pressure here shouldn’t be pushed solely onto women and girls, it is important that boys and men are socialised to believe that they can and should take equal responsibility for child care and homemaking.

“If these ideas do not come from both directions, changing these sorts of attitudes in society will be an uphill struggle.”

Ms French also stressed the importance of teaching young girls choice: “what is more incumbent on us as leaders in girls’ schools, is to try and get girls to see that it is a decision, and that there are options, and that it’s not wrong… that’s where society needs to come into play as well”.

“It’s not wrong to make a particular decision, whatever it is.”

Ms French did, however, express hope for the future, saying that young men nowadays were “very caring and do want to have children and do have an affinity with children”.


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