Thank you for taking the time to discover who we are and what we stand for.
I come from over 20 years working within the Independent Schools Sector of New Zealand.
Prior to working here I was the Headmistress of Tavistock and Summerhill Preparatory School in West Sussex UK. Before that I had the privilege of being the Head of Primary at Saint Kentigern Schools in Auckland.
I have a Doctorate in Education from The University of Auckland, a Masters in Educational Administration from Massey University and a Bachelors degree in Education from Canterbury University.
“In every day, there are 1,440 minutes. That means we have 1,440 opportunities to make a positive impact” – Les Brown
Being a Principal of a Girls’ Secondary School we’re constantly evaluating and reflecting on how we can ensure we remain future focused and best prepare our young women to leave our School confident, with a diverse range of skills and experiences ready to face the next chapter in their lives.
Currently our young people are known as Generation Z, born between 1995 and 2009, the eldest of them are 21 getting ready to enter or perhaps are already in the workforce and the youngest are seven and at Primary School. So the majority of Gen Z are currently in our Secondary Schools. My senior managers recently attended the SingularityU New Zealand Summit (about exponential technology and the future) and shared with me that 81% of today’s jobs will be under threat in the next 20 years from technology; automation and artificial intelligence in particular.
What is encouraging is that according to research, Gen Z girls are less likely to identify with the roles and traditions of women from previous generations and are more likely to have strong feminist attitudes and expect gender equality as the norm, not a notable exception (Yahoo I say).
They have already witnessed paradigm shifts in the definition of gender. They have grown up with the ability to manage their own reproductive cycles, have seen gay marriage legalised and same gender and blended families accepted.
Generation Z were born into a world in which they learned to type their name before learning how to print it. One of their biggest fears is “connectivity”: a flat cell phone, laptop or a place with no Wi-Fi is a major tragedy for them. They spend more time connected and do not know a world without social networking. Their mobile phone will continue to become so sophisticated that it will eventually replace a laptop or desktop. If you want to reach them from a marketing or recruitment perspective, you’ll have to have a mobile friendly website and they will gravitate to applications that are extremely easy to use and visual with the ability to customise it to suit them.
So how can schools ensure that our Gen Z’s girls are nurtured to their full potential?
We need to continue to work on our girls’ self-belief and confidence, especially when applying for positions in the workforce. There is still a tendency for a young woman to look at the skill level required for a position and then because they can’t tick all the boxes decide not to apply; whereas a young man with the same level of skill will not see this as a problem, after all he can wing it or learn on the job.
We need to develop our girls to have the courage to experiment and have an acceptable rate of failure. We should celebrate our failure alongside our over-emphasis on achievement and success. There is still a reluctance for some of our girls to put their toes in the water and try something new. They like to move within their competence levels and are still too quick at times to reflect “I am not good at that”. Pushing them outside their comfort zones where they can learn to fail – as well as achieve – and gain the important skill of being resilient and learning to cope with setbacks and carry on.
We need to continue to promote STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) – these subjects present our girls with hands-on problem solving and is essential as a way of closing the gender divide and allowing our girls the opportunities to explore and collaborate; we also need to help our girls see their future while having fun.
Connecting our girls with young and successful role models; women who are involved in a range of businesses, both established and start-ups, entrepreneurial projects, design developments and other cutting edge pedagogies is essential. These role models can share their personal journeys and can also mentor and enable our young girls’ ideas to gather wings through coaching, and even providing seeding funds.
Researchers believe that Generation Alpha – those born after 2010 – will be even more entrepreneurial and many will start companies before the age of 10. Most will fail in their business pursuit but will learn a lot and will have a stronger sense of success when they are older. Why wait? Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could launch this in our schools now? Establish a strong connectivity between school, business and entrepreneurship and this way of thinking is one of my goals. This is the future.
The acronym we use at Rangi Ruru is ICE: Inspire, Challenge and Empower. If we can successfully achieve that for every girl in our care then we will help play a key role in ensuring that not only does Generation Z succeed, but Generation Alpha will also continue to flourish.
What is exciting is that entrepreneurship is in Gen Z’s DNA. They grew up with ‘Made it myself’ websites, they have a strong sense of self and adaptability to change which is a key attribute needed for entrepreneurs, they have the ingredients to change the landscape for women in business, technology and leadership.
I leave you with a quote from Meg Cabot an American author.
“Courage is not the absence of fear but the judgment that something else is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all.” Meg Cabot