Re­vers­ing the tra­di­tion of a fe­male head


WE are dis­mayed to read that Pi­eter­mar­itzburg Girls’ High School (GHS) has ap­pointed its first male prin­ci­pal (The Wit­ness, April 11). It is dif­fi­cult to be­lieve that there were no com­pe­tent fe­male can­di­dates ea­ger to take on this chal­leng­ing task.

GHS, a pres­ti­gious school, was founded in 1920, and for 98 years, ded­i­cated and vi­sion­ary fe­male prin­ci­pals have en­sured its con­tin­u­ing con­tem­po­rary rel­e­vance, pro­vid­ing an out­stand­ing ed­u­ca­tion for fe­male pupils, many be­com­ing tal­ented lead­ers. This ap­point­ment re­verses this long-term tra­di­tion of fe­male lead­er­ship. Dur­ing these cru­cially for­ma­tive ed­u­ca­tional years, girls need role­mod­els of women who have achieved at the pin­na­cle of their cho­sen pro­fes­sion, en­cour­ag­ing them to chal­lenge gen­der stereo­types which erect ar­ti­fi­cial bar­ri­ers to fe­male achieve­ment.

What about ap­point­ing a woman to head one of the prom­i­nent boys’ schools, like Mar­itzburg Col­lege or Durban High School?

This might soften the of­ten gung-ho mas­culin­ist at­ti­tudes, in­tro­duc­ing a more nu­anced ap­proach for the boys.

Ac­cord­ing to a “Women Mat­ter Africa” study, only 20% of SA se­nior man­age­ment po­si­tions are held by women. There are few women in top CEO lead­er­ship in busi­ness and fi­nance, and women are un­der-rep­re­sented in higher ed­u­ca­tion lead­er­ship po­si­tions, where a very tra­di­tional, mas­cu­line cul­ture pre­vails.

SA still has a long way to go in pro­mot­ing gen­der eq­uity and em­pow­er­ing women, and this ap­point­ment un­for­tu­nately does not ad­vance this goal.

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