Female focus as Shipley shares story

By Anna Ferrick

The nation's first female Prime Minister, Jenny Shipley, is due at Woodford House next week to address girls, parents and teachers about navigating life in the 21st century.

Dame Jenny will be in the Bay next Friday and Saturday to help launch the Girls Pathways Strategies (GPS) Symposium, the brainchild of Woodford House principal Jackie Barron.

Last month Ms Barron said she wanted to help today's teenage girls earn back their reputation as aspirational women of the future.

"For girls, their world and how they are behave within it, is changing fast. But, many of them don't have the tools or support from well-equipped adults to help them navigate life in the 21st century."

Principals and leading students from six schools across the region came together to back the GPS Symposium, saying while girls are getting good results on the NCEA tables, they have yet to make an impact as top scholars, with girls in the minority of the Premier Award winners in each year group for the last three years.

They said this showed that specialised achievement in education was where girls were struggling and this was then reflected into the workforce and leadership roles.

Napier Girls' High School prefect and student trustee on the School Board, Brooke Hurndell, said the lack of women on board tables and in leadership positions showed girls needed to fight harder for the top spots.

"We work as hard and should be there. We don't want to be second best."

Her principal, Mary Nixon, said the glass ceiling was still there and it was important to work together and start sharing ideas to help achieve better outcomes for girls.

Taradale High School's principal Stephen Hensman said he sees great girls doing well.

"They are passing exams well and they are relationally mature, they have widespread involvement in extra-curricular activities but they are under represented at the top level of achievement.

"There is a contradiction, because girls are doing better than boys overall, they are passing more exams, but not at the top level of Scholarship.

"It's important as a co-ed school that we always endeavour to make sure girls and boys are given the same opportunities," said Mr Hensman

For Iona College's head girl, Sarah Cowan, being on the panel was an opportunity to listen and share ideas to help work out how to prepare girls so they become women in leadership positions.

"We have the capability to be chief executives and future leaders and we need to make a stand."

Annie Evans, associate principal of Taikura Rudolf Steiner School, said it was refreshing to be finally taking a good look at girls in their own right.

"There is currently so much emphasis on boys, and it is timely to be able to acknowledge, support and celebrate the particular qualities, and needs, of girls. Boys and girls face many of the same issues but the way they deal with them can be quite different."

Taikura Rudolf Steiner year 12 student Olivia Cox said through her co-education, she had been around boys since kindergarten.

"We have always been on a level playing field and we have thrived off the different ways we think. We can compete with boys and learn from them at the same time."

The GPS Symposium is focused on the wellbeing and opportunities of young women, and also challenges and issues girls face such as bullying, internet safety and building positive relationships.

The speakers include psychologist Karen Nimmo, educationalist Dr Julia Atkin, Netsafe's Lee Chisholm and nutritionist Katrina Darry and Dr Donna Swift, a specialist in violence among teenage girls.

Tickets to the hear the panel and Dame Jenny on Friday August 9 and to the Saturday Symposium August 10 at Woodford House are on sale now at www.woodford.school.nz/gps


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