Girls should be ambitious in relationships
School for husbands – girls should be taught how to find supportive man
Behind every successful woman there should be a supportive man, claims the head of a girls’ school association who says choosing a husband should be taught to be a career choice.
By Richard Alleyne
6:30PM BST 13 Jun 2012
Helen Fraser, 63, the chief executive of the Girls’ Day School Trust, told its annual conference that girls should learn to be just as “ambitious” in their relationships as they are in their careers.
She said that female pupils must learn to find a man that not only helps around the home but would also be a “cheerleader” for their career.
The former managing director of Penguin Books said that girls can have it all – career, marriage and motherhood – but they must learn to pick the right partner to accomplish it.
She said that failure to do so could mean women not so much hitting the “glass ceiling” as being blocked by a “nappy wall” caused by having to make a decision between children and career.
“Just as I believe we should always encourage our girls to aspire to the best universities, I believe we should encourage our girls to be ambitious in their relationships,” she said.
She said that she had been intrigued by comments made by the Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg’s that “The most important career choice you’ll make is who you marry”.
“Is this what we should be making space for our girls to learn?” she suggested.
“That what too many women face nowadays isn’t a ‘glass ceiling’ because of their sex but a ‘nappy wall’ if they choose to have a child as well as a career?
“That if you want children and a career, a partner who shares the load at home really, really matters?
“Or a partner who cares as much about you succeeding in your career as they does about their own – and is a cheerleader for you through your triumphs and setbacks.
“Is it about teaching girls to find partners who will make space for their own careers in a relationship?”
Speaking at the GDST’s 140th annual conference in London, she said: “It’s not just about finding a husband who does the Hoovering and makes the dinner.
“It’s about finding one who really understands it is important for you to thrive and do well in whatever you choose to do.
“They should be cheerleaders and take pride in their wife’s career as they do in their own.”
Mrs Fraser, who oversees 24 independent schools and two academies as chief executive of the GDST, has two daughters and two stepdaughters.
She took only six weeks’ full maternity leave after the birth of her children.
She said that schools should cap the number of GCSEs students take and dedicate the extra time on the curriculum to broadening life skills.
She said: “And looking back at the history of women in the 140 years of the GDST’s history, should we be teaching girls to push back the walls of inequality even further – to make the world a fairer place for all women?”
She also said there was a danger that we are being “infantilised” by new technology and that we’re in danger of losing sight of the truth that some learning is more of a “slow casserole, with knowledge stewing in our minds to form a richer, deeper flavour”.
“So I’m a firm believer in the importance for our students of switching off the computer, the radio, the smartphone, the TV, and any other distractions, and reading a whole book,” she said.
“When you read a book, you are in contact with another mind – probably wiser and more informed than you. With the internet, you are in contact with dry facts.”
Her views match those of Cherie Blair who in March said it was time to “celebrate the role men are now playing in helping women’s rise to the top”.
“This is not to suggest that the fight for equality has been won,” she said.
“It is, instead, recognition that the fight to overcome the barriers holding women back is being joined by growing numbers of men.
“And the quicker we recruit more to the ranks, the faster progress will be.”