Girls still seen as homemakers - Girls' Schools Association head

Girls studying Girls should be aware they have choices, says Mrs French

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Girls are still being brought up to believe that raising children is more important than their own ambitions, the president of the Girls' Schools Association has said.

They should be told that they have freedom to make different choices if they want to, says Hilary French.

Despite women's educational achievements, they are still expected to be the homemaker, she says.

Women are now more likely than men to go to university in the UK.

Mrs French, who is also the headmistress of Central Newcastle High School, told the Press Association news agency the school sometimes invited business leaders and entrepreneurs in to talk to students.

"One of the young entrepreneurs, a lady, dared to say that she had probably put her business ahead of her son, and the sharp intake of breath from all of the girls was audible," she said.

"They were all absolutely shocked, so yes, 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."

The GSA leader said that was an issue for ethical and moral debate - and a very personal decision.

"But, what's maybe less personal, and maybe 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, and that's where society needs to come into play as well," she said.

"It's not wrong to make a particular decision, whatever it is."

'Caring men'

Mrs French added that it was "probably still the assumption" that women would deal with childcare.

"We do still expect women to be at the core of the relationship, the homemaker, the person who brings up children and thinks about what everyone's going to eat every day. It's still, I think, unusual to find a man doing that."

However, Mrs French said she was also "quite struck" that today's young men were "very caring and do want to have children and do have an affinity with children".

Commenting on planned changes to England's exams system, Mrs French said she supported the principles of the plans "to make the system more rigorous and fit for purpose".

But she raised concerns about the idea of scrapping GCSEs in core academic subjects and replacing them with new English Baccalaureate Certificates (EBCs).

EBCs in English, maths and science are due to be introduced in autumn 2015, with the first exams being taken in 2017. EBCs in history, geography and foreign languages are due to be brought in later.

Mrs French said EBCs could "make a failing system more complicated and possibly more prone to absolute collapse in the end".


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  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    58. Z1A900
    I'm sorry but that is not a fact, it totally depends on the individual; there's plenty of cases where this has been proven to not be the case. I know of a number of men who have had to gain full custody of their children due to poor mothering skills. Such a sweeping comment is nothing but ignorant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    I understand what this article is trying to say, but it's doing a poor job of it! I agree that the idea that women make the best childcarers and homemakers pervades in our society, despite the best efforts for equality, and this is a shame, but setting "work" as opposite to being a mother is not helpful - the two are not mutually exclusive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    We should lower living costs and go back to having a stay at home parent in most families, be it mother or father. Society would probably benefit from parents raising children instead of teenaged nursery nurses. It would sort the job market out too, there would be fewer people applying and employers might have to pay higher wages to fill vacancies.

    A win for normal people all round I think.

  • Comment number 79.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    "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."

    And that is a bad thing? I'm sorry, but the priority of every parent should be looking after their children. Do we really want to send girls the message that they should value their careers over their offspring?

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Are you kidding me ?
    How can anything be more important than looking after a child ?
    If you as a mother decided to have a child then looking after that child comes first. Sure a father can play a role and I have no objection to a father being the primary carer where the mother has got more earning potential in the family but it goes without saying that if you have a kid the kid comes first. doh!

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    The government doesn't allow single mothers to look after their children.

    When their children are just 5 years old, mothers are forced to go find any job they can, normally a job that doesn't even cover child care costs.
    They do not have any choice about that... or any rights.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Girls, will always be seen as homemakers, possibly due to the fact that sexism and mysoginy still reigns supreme even in the 21st century..

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    56. John Paul Anderson

    Please don't make sweeping statements about single parents being 'harmful'. In some cases it may have been much more harmful for a woman to have stayed in an abusive relationship!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    funny how you ignore all the rabid feminists who attack women who want to stay at home who want the choice to do what they want.
    Feminists have nothing to do with equal rights its about getting it all on your plate now and to hell with equality they are just as bad as their male equivalents as the last thing they want is choice and equality

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Forgive me, but why can raising children not itself BE an ambition? Is making you, me, or any of us somehow a second-rate past time? Was raising us a waste of time?
    There is no better than the joys of raising children, parenthood and keeping a home.
    Most people don't love their jobs (or boss) but most parents adore their children. So why is work held up as so amazing?
    Please, think again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Society is to blame for the unfairness that females on this planet have to endure since the mentality of a lot of males is that since a woman gives birth is her responcibility to look after the kids plus she is expected to work inside and out of the house maybe is time that we respect our parthners, wifes as we respect our mothers.

  • Comment number 70.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Thank you EBGB, very true & important point well put...
    In an ideal world men should feel happy to share the load of caring for children & helping with the huge amount of daily domestic tasks - I bet it's what our ancestors did...
    Most of my female friends (working f/t!) complain all cooking, tasks like ironing, planning what kids need day to day & most of the tidying is left to them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Footman at the Palace of Westminster opened a door for a woman.

    "Did you do that because I'm woman?" she barked.

    "No madam, because I'm a gentleman" was his reply.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    I'm a stay at home dad. I left work to go to university and finished around the time our 2nd child was born, my partner enjoys her job and earns more than I can. We decided that I would stay home for a while as child care would cost about as much as I could earn.

    People think its strange that I stay home while she works and comment on it a lot, sometimes mocking. Men can do the job too you know!

  • Comment number 66.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Why would anyone who chooses to have a child NOT think that looking after them is the most important thing they can do?

    It doesn't worry me if girls "still" think that caring for children is more important than a career. What worries me is that it still seems to be so overlooked that fathers can take on the homemaker role instead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    My experience as a 40 something female is definitely that women & expected to work AND care for.children & do the bulk of the domestic stuff.
    Unless you marry a particularly fair-minded & considerate man, I would hazard a guess that 'having it all & doing it all' is the way life is for most of us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    It has been said that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world

    To what extent I wonder can our 'broken' society be connected with this saying?

    If I had more than 400 Chars I'd explain what I'm getting at


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