Lessons from Iceland, the World’s Most Women-Empowering Nation

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, I find myself thinking about role models who inspire gender equity and encourage political voice for young women. Among these is Halla Tómasdóttir, an entrepreneur, change catalyst, founding member of Reykjavík University, and runner-up in Iceland’s 2016 presidential election. She is a visionary leader who advocates for women empowerment as a key lever in driving economic growth, educating future generations, doing good business, and building prosperous societies.

As Tómasdóttir explained during her presidential campaign, “the world would be a better, safer, more sustainable place if we could infuse finance, business, and politics with more gender balance; and it’s easier to change things from the inside.” Tómasdóttir was the first female CEO of the Iceland Chamber of Commerce and later founded Auður Capital, an investment firm that focused on incorporating “feminine values” into finance.

The world’s first democratically elected female president, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, led Iceland for four terms from 1980 to 1996. Today, Iceland is arguably the most progressive nation in the world when it comes to women’s empowerment. Like a generation of Icelandic women who were inspired by Finnbogadóttir’s election, Tómasdóttir was acutely aware that, win or lose, there was great value in the example of running for political office.

“What we see, we can be,” Tómasdóttir said. “It matters that women run.”  

 

For the past nine years, Iceland has been the most gender-equal country topping the World Economic Forum’s gender gap index (compared to the U.S. at #49). Out of the 144 countries included in the index, Iceland continually ranks first in political empowerment among women and for closing the gender income gap, and boasts corporate quotas ensuring women currently hold 40% of the board seats of companies with a staff of more than 50. Women also hold 48% of the country’s parliamentary seats. The Economist named Iceland the world’s best place for working women, based on combined data on higher education, labor-force participation, pay, child-care costs, maternity and paternity rights, and representation in senior jobs.

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in Iceland, Tómasdóttir founded and chaired “WE 2015: A Global Dialogue on Closing the Gender Gap.” Just two years later, Iceland celebrated International Women’s Day by becoming the first country in the world to require that businesses prove they offer equal pay to their employees. Women in Iceland currently earn 18% less on average than their male counterparts, but the government has pledged to close the gender pay gap by 2022. In comparison, the American Association of University Women predicted in 2016 that the gender pay gap in the U.S. will not close for more than 100 years.

NCGS is grateful to its strategic partner, the Margret Pála Schools, for sponsoring Halla Tómasdóttir as a keynote speaker for the Global Forum II. Join us June 18-20 in Washington, DC, for the Global Forum on Girls’ Education® II to exchange best practices for educating and empowering girls, including lessons from our Icelandic colleagues about how to advance gender equity, promote political voice, and develop compassionate leaders.


Megan Murphy, Executive Director, National Coalition of Girls’ Schools

Our Students, Our Schools, Our Future

NCGS engages the power of many voices to strengthen our schools, communities, and world. Now is a time when we need to assert our collective voice—educators, parents, students, alumnae, and supporters—to ensure innovative, vibrant, and safe school environments. We must focus on our commitment to educate and empower students with the skills and confidence to make a positive impact on our world.

Deep learning requires that students feel safe and secure. Not just safe to express themselves and their ideas, but safe from threat of physical harm.

Educators play a critical role in empowering students with the tools and informed perspective to become influential contributors to our complex, changing world. We cannot achieve this without an unwavering faith in the security of our classrooms and campuses, and a steadfast imperative to requiring safe learning communities for our students. Furthermore, students cannot reach their full potential and develop into the leaders of tomorrow when faced with today’s reality of school shootings and violence.

As educators, parents, and alumnae, it is vitally important that we work together to inspire the next generation to lead with courage, competence, and empathy. At NCGS, we recognize the strength of our community to empower girls to use their voices to shape the world. Together, we can help build a more equitable and peaceful society by supporting civil discourse, cultivating respect for differences, promoting independent thinking, understanding varying perspectives, and committing to optimal and safe learning environments for our children.


Megan Murphy, Executive Director, National Coalition of Girls’ Schools

Learn how you can take action to #StandUpSpeakUp on behalf of girls’ education.

Trailblazer and Changemaker: Billie Jean King

A trailblazer and changemaker on and off the tennis court, Billie Jean King, named one of the “100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century” by Life magazine, has dedicated her life to creating new inroads for women. NCGS proudly announces Billie Jean King will appear at the Global Forum on Girls’ Education® II in Washington, DC on June 18-20, 2018!

During her legendary career, King won 39 Grand Slam singles, doubles, and mixed doubles tennis titles, including a record 20 titles at Wimbledon. In 1974, she founded the Women’s Sports Foundation only one year after defeating Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” match—a moment among the greatest in sports history that empowered women and is remembered for its effect on society and contribution to the women’s movement.

Dedicated to creating leaders by ensuring all girls have access to sports, the Women’s Sports Foundation held the inaugural National Girls & Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) 32 years ago this month. A celebration of the extraordinary achievements in girls and women’s sports and the positive influence athletic participation brings to their lives, NGWSD recognizes the ongoing effort towards equality and greater access for girls and women in sports.

Creating Leaders Through Sports

“Sports teaches you character, it teaches you to play by the rules, it teaches you to know what it feels like to win and lose—it teaches you about life.”

–Billie Jean King

Young athletes are encouraged to challenge limits, learn to persevere against the odds, build confidence to take healthy risks, and are instilled with courage and conviction. The resilience and grit gained through participation in sports are the same tools girls need to become the confident leaders of tomorrow. The competitive nature of sports fosters teamwork and places an emphasis on being able to perform under pressure—qualities that translate into many facets of life.

A report published by Catalyst found that 82% of the women executives surveyed had participated in sports at one time in their lives beyond the elementary school level. A survey of business leaders from around the world conducted by Ernst & Young revealed that women holding positions at the executive level had participated in sports at the university level more frequently than women who were in manager positions (55% compared to 39%). Nearly 70% of these women executives indicated their involvement in athletics was helpful to career advancement because it prepared them to work better in teams and 76% reported that behaviors learned in the high-performance environments of sports can be applied to the corporate setting.

Working Together

“That’s the way I want the world to look: men and women working together, championing each other, helping each other, promoting each other—we’re all in this world together.”

–Billie Jean King

King not only uses her voice as a social activist on the world stage, she also does hands-on work at the local level. Girls Prep, an NCGS strategic partner for the Global Forum II, is among the many organizations to which King lends her time and talents.

Girls Prep is part of Public Prep, the nation’s only non-profit network that exclusively develops exceptional, tuition-free PreK and single-sex elementary and middle public schools. Students at Girls Prep schools are instilled with the core values of merit, scholarship, sisterhood, and responsibility whether it be in their classroom, on the court, or in their community.

BJK headshot 2013_2_Andrew Coppa Photography

Billie Jean King

Classrooms on Girls Prep campuses are named for famous women who serve as influential role models, reminding the students that hard work can lead to magnificent outcomes. At the Lower East Side Elementary campus, the first-grade students are treated to an annual visit by their classroom “namesake,” Billie Jean King. The girls hear directly from King about her trailblazing accomplishments and discuss their interests and the importance of goal setting. King spotlights the importance of having fun and trying your best—two important concepts that her parents would stress to King after every tennis match.

King has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the U.S.; been named a Global Mentor for Gender Equality by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); and received the NCAA U.S. President’s Gerald R. Ford Award recognizing her contributions to improving higher education and intercollegiate athletics.

NCGS is honored to welcome this champion of equality for women and girls to the Global Forum on Girls’ Education® II.


Megan Murphy, Executive Director, National Coalition of Girls’ Schools

To Inspire Girls Today, Honor the Groundbreaking Women of History

This weekend, one of the country’s preeminent computer scientists celebrates a birthday. Not Bill Gates or Larry Page. And not Mark Zuckerberg. It’s someone we don’t hear very much about: “Amazing Grace” Hopper. Her accomplishments aren’t taught in many high school classes. And she doesn’t come to mind when people think “groundbreaking computer scientist.”

Yet Adm. Hopper was one of the first computer programmers in the country, coding Harvard’s Mark I computer during World War II. She standardized computer-coding languages until she was 79, paving the way for future computer scientists and coders by creating the standard for testing computers and their components. Despite her accomplishments and impact, Hopper is like many women in our country’s history — overlooked in the stories we tell our children about the scientists and engineers, journalists and advocates, who have been game-changers for the world.

How do we decide which historical figures we discuss and which ones are left out? Why is there still such a bias in history textbooks, where fewer than 11% of the figures mentioned are women? More to the point, how can we overcome stereotypes about a young girl’s future role in her career or community if we don’t do a better job honoring the pioneering women who should be her role models?

Overlooking this aspect of our history is not merely about missing pages from a textbook. Particularly when we’re thinking of innovators like Hopper, whose enduring impact was in a typically male-dominated field. This sort of omission can have long-lasting, detrimental effects, not only for girls, but also for society.

GraceHopper

Adm. Grace Hopper was one of the first computer programmers in the country, coding Harvard’s Mark I computer during World War II.

If we only teach certain stories from history — and if we leave out so many female pioneers — school-aged girls will only see themselves pursuing certain paths. They won’t have the examples needed to imagine other outcomes, for themselves or their female friends. It’s part of the reason why women represent 51% of the world population, but a mere one out of seven of our engineers. It’s why we continue to see female policymakers and advocates overshadowed by male counterparts. And why we risk limiting the insights and innovations today’s schoolgirls can bring to science, journalism, the military, and more.

These young women will not naturally imagine themselves as future engineers solving climate change, scientists finding the cure to cancer, or policymakers addressing problems in Washington, unless we provide them role models for these pursuits.

We can inspire girls to explore these fields and more by showing them all the varied accomplishments of their predecessors, helping these future leaders to realize they can color outside the boundaries seen in today’s history textbooks.

Let’s tell them about Katherine Johnson, a mathematician and “Human Computer” for NASA. Johnson was the aerospace technologist who calculated the trajectory of the first American in space. And Rosalind Franklin, the scientist whose X-ray diffractions led to Watson and Crick’s discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA, laying the groundwork for their Nobel Prize. And Frances Perkins, whose leadership as a workers’ rights advocate led to her appointment as labor secretary in the Franklin Roosevelt administration, the first woman to lead a U.S. cabinet agency.

We have more women breaking ground than history leads us to believe. But until we can name these women alongside the men whose stories commonly describe the course of history, we will have fewer young women ready to break ground in the future, for all of society’s benefit.

Fortunately, the status quo is beginning to change. In 2016, Hopper was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Last winter, Katherine Johnson’s story was commemorated in the biographical film Hidden Figures. And, as in years past, students at the Baldwin School are studying Franklin’s discoveries in biology class.

But there are more stories we need to tell. And more parties to throw to celebrate the milestones and achievements of Hopper and women like her. Not just once a year. Not just during women’s history month. But year-round. It’s the only way to make today’s schoolgirls tomorrow’s game-changers.


Marisa Porges, Head of School, Baldwin School and Audrey Senior, Class of 2018 and editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, Baldwin School.

Article originally appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer and is reprinted with permission of the authors.

Fail Gloriously, Lead Boldly*

One of the highlights of my year has been meeting with a group of upper school girls (recipients of the inaugural Moulton Student Global Citizenship Grant awarded by NCGS) to flesh out their idea for creating a middle school leadership program that is developmentally suited to this age group.

The girls’ commitment has been commendable. They never miss our weekly meetings, and their energy, creativity, and enthusiasm have fueled my own. There are other adults in the room, and together, we are slowly but surely driving toward our goal. The girls’ ideas are taking shape, and with the input of students and teachers in our middle school, will surely impact their younger sisters’ leadership identity.

In our earliest conversations, we explored what we know about girls in middle school, and their possibly reluctant stance toward claiming their leadership voice. We talked about the awkwardness that is so often a part of those middle years. We discussed how girls can worry about being seen as bossy by their peers, or about losing friends when a decision is unpopular.

We also talked about the fact that running for elected office (one form of leadership) is a highly vulnerable endeavor that opens oneself up to the sting of failure. We talked about how failure is an inherent part of stepping into a space that, because we are not clairvoyant, is unknown and unknowable to us. And we talked about how for girls, in particular, the risk of failure is a very hard concept to embrace. The pressure placed on girls to be “practically perfect in every way,” as Mary Poppins so famously said, has been covered in a variety of outlets. It is important to note, however, that this pressure can make girls risk-averse, which we know will in turn rob them of the opportunity to discover in themselves what they are truly capable of. Brené Brown speaks eloquently about how vulnerability is “our greatest measure of courage,” and each of us, in girls’ schools, hopes just that for our students—the uncovering of courage to risk, fail, and try again.

I shared with my group of intrepid upper school girls that I once read about a girls’ school in the UK that celebrated “failure week” in order to help its students become comfortable with the idea of failing for all of the reasons listed above. One girl—smart, bold, insightful, and honest—grabbed the arms of the chair in which she was seated. She sat up straight, caught her breath, and exclaimed, “I think we are going to have to incorporate something like that. The thought of it alone makes me anxious. I guess I really need it.” We all chuckled, because of her disarming honesty, but also because we could all relate. Failure can be excruciating. The (temporary) loss of confidence alone is enough to make us shrink back to doing what is safe and predictable. But here is the irony: the more we risk and the greater the potential for failure, the harder it becomes to retreat permanently to safe ground. Good leaders know this. Once you have imagined greater possibilities for yourself and others, it is hard to remain satisfied with the status quo.

When we have seen what is possible, we dust ourselves off and reach for the next opportunity to make our vision reality.

At one of our more recent planning meetings, the girls proposed we create a version of the Game of Life for our middle schoolers to play in which risk and decision-making will inevitably lead to moments of failure, but also moments of triumph. The point of the game is to become comfortable with the fact that life is not just smooth sailing, and in order to grow and lead, we need to make ourselves vulnerable by taking bold risks that may indeed lead to failing gloriously.


Mariandl M.C. Hufford, NCGS Trustee and Assistant Head of School and Director of the Center for the Advancement of Girls, The Agnes Irwin School

*“Fail gloriously” is attributed to actress Cate Blanchett who said, “If you know you are going to fail, then fail gloriously.”

Stand Up—and Speak Up—for Girls’ Education Around the World

In celebration of International Day of the Girl, NCGS launches, in collaboration with its Global Forum on Girls’ Education® II strategic partners, a Pledge in support of girls’ education around the world.

We invite you to sign and share the Pledge on social media using the hashtag #StandUpSpeakUp.

What originated in February 2016 as a conference of nearly 1,000 educators, mostly from girls’ schools located in 23 countries, became much more significant. It signaled the start of a movement—a call to action to awaken the world to the importance of empowering girls through a single, inalienable right: access to a quality education. NCGS and partners from across the globe are eager to take the next step in making our voices heard and for educators of girls to lead this conversation.

The Pledge captures and articulates the excitement, opportunity, and imperative from that inaugural Global Forum on Girls’ Education and calls upon us to stand up—and speak up—for girls’ education. The concepts conveyed in the Pledge—inspiration, confidence, collaboration, empowerment—reflect the common values and interests of our diverse, yet mission-aligned, partners working together on the Global Forum II.

Intended for advocates of all ages, the Pledge is being distributed via Change.org to allow supporters easy access to sign and share it regardless of geographic location. Available in English and Spanish, the Pledge displays the unified strength within the girls’ school and girls’ education communities.

Join us as we stand up—and speak up—for girls’ education by signing and sharing the Pledge (English or Spanish) today!


Megan Murphy, Executive Director, National Coalition of Girls’ Schools

STEP: The Choreography of Life In and Outside of The Young Women’s Leadership Schools

If you want to witness the true greatness of America, turn off your television sets, stop listening to the noise out of Washington, and go see the movie STEP. Soon to be in theaters nationally on August 4, STEP is a dazzling and emotional documentary film about our affiliate school, The Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, and the powerful journey of members of its step team. The school was created in 2009, and was modeled after the school I founded in 1996, The Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem, the first of five of our New York City schools. These schools are all-girls public schools, grades 6 to 12.

As an Executive Producer for STEP, I have been buoyed by seniors Cori Grainger, Blessin Giraldo, and Tayla Solomon ever since they started sharing their stories with Amanda Lipitz, the film’s director and producer.

When you meet Blessin, Cori, and Tayla you will see exactly what the world should see more of: the power and promise of young women of color. Their stories are there in every corner of this country. However, most often, they are simply ignored.

It is infectious to watch how the step team’s powerful foot stomping, hand clapping, call and response, and synchronicity morph into deliberate and passionate steps to a brighter future. In fact, the choreography of step goes far beyond the dance floor. Central to the girls’ stories in this film, we are compelled and blown away by the strength of their mothers who share their own aspirations and fears. They open their doors and their hearts to us and we are privileged to witness their fierce devotion and determination. (Cautionary advice: one shouldn’t see this film without an ample supply of tissues.)

 

Cori, Tayla, and Blessin and their families face the kind of systemic barriers and stereotypes, including racism and dire economic circumstances, which would derail even the strongest among us. Yet, like so many of our students, they do not succumb to the pressure of poverty or let it crush their dreams. The dedicated and powerful staff at their school—and at all of our 13 affiliate schools around the country—are the giants in this movie; they are the pillars of support and love that see these young women through.

We know what works in our schools: a solid principal who motivates, a coach who is perceptive and tough, a college counselor whose sole mission is to see that every senior graduates and enrolls in college. Our 18 schools that make up the Young Women’s Leadership Network work every day to upend the college degree divide, because we know that when students move into higher education, they move out of poverty. With more than 8,500 students in our schools, our families know that without college, their daughters and granddaughters will likely be stuck in a modern-day caste system of the haves and the not even close.

An independent study shows that students from our network, The Young Women’s Leadership Schools, not only enroll in college at twice the rate of their peers, they earn bachelor degrees at four times the rate! But numbers don’t tell the full story. Tayla, Cori, and Blessin do—in their own words.

In its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, STEP was an instant sensation. I’m convinced in this era of incivility and rancor, there is a national hunger for our students’ stories of hope and perseverance.

I am confident that the lights will always burn bright for our students, especially because as Blessin so aptly says, “Step taught me if you come together with a group of powerful women, the impact will be immense.”

I am not a movie reviewer, but I do know what STEP symbolizes at its core: in America, when we stop hating and arguing and defeating, only good can happen. The promise of this nation is breathing; and while it may look different, the American dream is alive and can be found in the places you might least expect.

Ann Tisch, President and Founder, Young Women’s Leadership Network

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on The Huffington Post and is reposted with permission of the author.


NCGS proudly salutes its member The Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women – affectionately known as BLSYW (pronounced “bliss”) – on the success of the film STEP. The long journey to a national release in theaters began with the world premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. STEP was selected for the festival from 13,782 submissions.

I was honored to attend the recent Baltimore premiere of STEP as the guest of NCGS Co-Founder Whitty Ransome who serves on the BLSYW Board of Trustees. Former NCGS Trustee Ann Teaff, retired Head of Harpeth Hall, is also a proud member of the BLSYW Board. As I was moved by the film, I was equally moved by Ann’s article, and am grateful for her permission to post it in its entirety on Raising Girls’ Voices.

The NCGS community will have the special opportunity to see the BLSYW step team perform live at the Global Forum on Girls’ Education® II. Be sure to join us in Washington, DC, June 18-20, 2018.

Megan Murphy, Executive Director, NCGS

Girls’ Schools: Where Girls Speak Without Interruption

The New York Times ran last week the article, “The Universal Phenomenon of Men Interrupting Women.” The article states, “Academic studies and countless anecdotes make it clear that being interrupted, talked over, shut down or penalized for speaking out is nearly a universal experience for women when they are outnumbered by men.”

The article got me thinking about the supportive, inclusive nature of all-girls educational environments. Also, about how deep learning requires an atmosphere of respect that encourages students to engage in dialogue. Girls’ schools are such places.

At an all-girls school, girls take center stage and are encouraged to speak their minds without interruption. We not only observe this daily on our campuses, but research also supports this unique characteristic of girls’ schools. Dr. Rosemary C. Salomone noted, “Single-sex programs…create an institutional and classroom climate in which female students can express themselves freely and frequently, and develop higher order thinking skills.” Girls’ school students self-report the same findings.

According to the High School Survey of Student Engagement data analyzed for Steeped in Learning: The Student Experience at All-Girls Schools, “girls’ school students are more likely than their female peers at coeducational independent and public schools to experience an environment that welcomes an open and safe exchange of ideas.” Nearly 87% of girls’ school students feel their opinions are respected at their school compared to 83% and 58% of girls at coed independent and public schools, respectively.

This experience does not shelter girls’ school students from the real world, but to the contrary better prepares them to find and use their voices beyond the walls of the classroom. As a college professor once shared with NCGS, “I could identify students from girls’ schools on the first day of class. They were the young women whose hands shot up in the air, who were not afraid to defend their positions.”

We are proud of the work of the men and women at our member schools who teach girls there’s enormous potential and power in being a girl. Together, we are raising girls’ voices.


Megan Murphy, Executive Director, National Coalition of Girls’ Schools

Summertime Reading for Girls

As another school year winds down, days are filled with final exams and report cards, end-of-year traditions and graduation. Then comes that much need time for rejuvenation and reflection… summer! A time when educators and students alike can relax and lose themselves in a good book — one that doesn’t have a paper or presentation looming at the end of the last page.

As a thought leader in girls’ education, the NCGS Amazon eBookstore features recommended reading lists for educators, students, and parents. NCGS thanks Diana O’Connor, Librarian at Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School for curating this summer’s reading lists for students, which are grouped by grade level. Diana’s selections feature diverse authors and characters, reflecting our global society.

Check out this summer’s lists:

This resource is available to help you identify inspiring selections for your students. In the meantime, I send best wishes for the conclusion of another successful school year, and hope you and your students find the time this summer to relax with a good book!


Megan Murphy, Executive Director, National Coalition of Girls’ Schools

Girls’ Schools Redefine Leadership: Part 2 of 2

This article is part two of a two-part series on how leadership is viewed and taught in girls’ schools. Click here to view part one.


An NCGS belief is that one size does not fit all. After all, the premise for single-sex schools is there are some things better suited for a single-gender environment. Therefore, one can conclude girls’ schools are based on the belief that there are many temperaments, talents, and attributes to actualize and an array of approaches and applications that can build up the strengths of our students. This is not to say coeducational institutions believe in one size fits all. As an educator, I have great respect for my colleagues and the ways in which my peers strive to actualize missions specific to their schools.

As I reflect on Susan Cain’s work, I find myself thinking carefully about the range of personalities in our mix. I am grateful for Susan’s deep dive into personalities and leadership. Our schools and professional lives are improved with such contemplations and ensuing dialogues. I am proud NCGS is focusing on civil discourse with this blog series on leadership, and appreciate the opportunity to ponder Susan’s work and the response of my respected colleague Nanci Kauffman by adding my own musings.

When at our best, those of us who claim our craft as educators are carpenters of the heart and mind.  We are child whisperers and claim to know what makes our students—and in the case of NCGS, our girls—tick. We don’t set a timer on the dashboard and use competition to bring out the best in all of our girls; even our extroverts, alphas, and those most comfortable taking healthy risks need “think time.” We don’t view spectating as passive, but in many cases, as a front row seat for the active learner. I agree with Nanci that leadership is not binary. One is not a leader or a follower. In my role as a Head of School, I sometimes lead, sometimes follow, and sometimes get out of the way. I see the same in my colleagues and from our girls. I learn from their ways and journeys on the path towards their maturation and leadership development.

Oftentimes, the true measure of our success and mission delivery is to focus on our graduates. As the Head of St. Paul’s School for Girls (SPSG), I am blown away by our alumnae. I imagine this is not singular to my experience, but rather many of my colleagues at other schools feel the same way and are humbled, proud, and rejuvenated from interactions with their alumnae/i. When I hear how they navigate their lives and make intentional choices, what’s clear to me is they feel they have more autonomy than ever before. Choices are in abundance, but making healthy choices is the key to success. Finding meaning and purpose in one’s life is an area for discussion where our alumnae—no matter their zip code, graduation year, or lifestyle—want to linger.

Our graduates and current students want to serve, to give back, to have empathy for those they claim as a part of their community. Servant leadership is a form of leadership brought to the forefront of SPSG and many girls’ schools which have service learning requirements. For SPSG specifically, our Episcopal identity calls us to give and grow from such service to others. Alumnae share that this “requirement” becomes a lifelong habit of leading through service. I wonder if this is the type of following that might resonate with Susan Cain’s work? Following a cause, a belief, a mission, or a higher calling is not passive. I think Susan wants our students—both boys and girls—to discover themselves through processes and to be less focused upon the product that the college landscape and résumé-building frenzy is leaning towards. Without pause, think time, boredom, discovery, choice, and application of creative thoughts, it’s hard to find meaning in one’s life or to make meaning from one’s experiences. The choice of when to lead by being in front, when to follow by letting others have a turn, and when to get out of the way requires instinct, knowledge of oneself, and permission to make mistakes.

It is a gift—a privilege—to serve through leadership at SPSG, to partner with NCGS, and to act as a catalyst for planting seeds with our colleagues about how we might unravel the leadership labyrinth. In doing so, we will help our students know themselves as evolving and capable citizens, learners, and friends. The last line of St. Paul’s School for Girls’ mission statement reads, “inspire confident leaders to serve in the world.” As such, I am grateful for the opportunity to share my thoughts with the girls’ school community members who are, like me, carpenters of hearts and minds.


Penny Evins, Head of School, St. Paul’s School for Girls