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.