It is no secret that I attach great importance to the place of girls, in school and in the wider world; I have dedicated previous weekly letters to the topic (most recently here). Schools are responsible for defending girls’ interests in what is only fair to call the on-going struggle for gender equality; schools have to be fully committed to fighting the female corner, to confronting the issue head on and to offering tangible solutions.
In order to do so, schools have a number of institutional tools at their disposal, such as ensuring gender parity in the designation of class representatives. It is up to each individual school to decide which specific actions they take to draw attention to the issue. They can choose to work on projects with associations for women’s rights or to make pedagogical decisions – choosing to study novels written by women or episodes of history as seen from the female perspective etc.
Whatever route is taken, whatever projects are put in place, we all have to remain committed to the issue for the long-haul, there are no quick fix solutions or revolutionary changes in attitudes lingering on the horizon. Nonetheless, we cannot let ourselves forget that, as schools, our contribution is crucial and we should try to measure it, modestly. In spite of the obstacles, the disappointment, the steps backward, we should welcome every victory for girls’ rights and gender parity with joy.
The fact that girls make up 7 out of 10 of the FS students who qualified for our Nuit du c0de team is such a victory. It is a victory because we all know that girls in tech are a rarity; that programming is considered a guy thing – you just have to look at what is going on in Silicon Valley to see it. It is a victory because this coding night was created with the aim of shaking up male/ female cultural codes (coders like junk food, coders like video games – boy’s stuff, right? Wrong!). There is nothing more satisfying than watching clichés collapse and with them the universal “truths” that we are all a little too lazy to question.
For the Nuit du c0de, we didn’t resort to a gender parity tool. Our girls got their places on the team because they worked for them, deserved them and won them, the same as the boys who won their places.
Putting it simply, we need to offer girls and boys exactly the same opportunities: to code, to play football, to dance, to design dresses. Let’s drop the notion that girls are good at some things and boys are good at others. As the philosopher, Richard Rorty puts it – much better than I could – the fact of being a boy or a girl should have no impact on the opportunities life presents us with. That is the future that I dream of and would like for us to dream of together.
At the French Section, we contribute in a small way to the construction of that dream. There is still a long way to go before we get there. In the meantime, we will continue to be flabbergasted by the words used to describe girls, and we will continue to rant about the behaviour of boys (who are acting out the cliché of male behaviour that they have been surrounded with all their lives).
At least for now, we can be joyful and say well done to the girls for their excellent results!
Have a wonderful weekend.