Year 8 Amelia interviews Mrs Wilson and Mrs Kell for her International Women's Day article
During February half term Amelia was challenged to write a piece relating to International Women’s Day (IWD2021).
International Women’s day celebrates and recognizes women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements. It was first recognised in the USA in 1909, then outside the USA in 1911 before officially being recognised worldwide as an International Day in 1985. Each year International Women’s Day attracts support from both men and women to educate and fight for gender equality across the globe, raise awareness of women doing great things and to share the work female focused charities do all year round.
Lots of things have changed for women over the years but there is still a way to go. Did you know 1/3 women today still face domestic violence? 17% of women today are underpaid to do the same job as a man! And around 4 million young girls are still at risk of genital mutilation; a violation of girl's and women’s human rights. More needs to be done and can be done to stop all this.
Each Year IWD has a theme, this year is no different and quite a fitting one considering the last year we have had. This year’s theme is Choose to Challenge! Choose to challenge things that are not right in society, choose to challenge gender inequality, pay inequality and racism. Choose to challenge everything and anything for a better future. This last year we saw the Black Lives Matter movement, climate crisis and vaccine production. Without challenges we have unhelpful expectations; we fail to improve or better ourselves or the society we live in. 2021 we choose to challenge!
Thinking about all the women that have done great things like Katherine Johnson (Astrophysic), Rosalind Franklin (Chemist) and one of my favourite women Hilary Clinton (First Lady), for her efforts on rights for all, and her story about how she stood up to “boy bullies” as a child with the encouragement from her mum, got me thinking about some other women I cross paths with every day that I look up to; women that I see as great, strong, confident influences that should be recognized so I decided to interview them and luckily, they both agreed.
Meet Headmistress, Mrs Wilson and Head of Prep, Mrs Kell
Me: Right now, I wish to become a midwife when I leave school. The idea of helping all women bring life into the world seems very rewarding. Supporting them when they are vulnerable, excited and sometimes scared, being there to reassure them and support them plus the extra baby cuddles after in a busy ward is where I want to be working.
What did you want to become when you were a little girl?
Mrs Kell: I began thinking about my career towards the end of primary school, I really enjoyed nursing my sick rabbits and animals in general and I thought about becoming a vet. I loved to read James Herriot stories as well. In Senior School I sat a Morrisby Test, which is a careers-matching assessment, and it did show that that as a career option. Interestingly, for years, my parents and wider family thought I was a natural teacher. I took the families' younger children under my wing and many would say to me that I should pursue a career in teaching.
Mrs Wilson: I always wanted to be a teacher.
Me: Looking into IWD I have found lots of women that inspire me from some mentioned above, to the women around me every day. One woman for me, and it may seem corny, is my mum who has to be the woman that inspires me the most. She is always cheering me on, encouraging me and gives up a lot so we can have good things.
Which females inspired you most growing up and how/why?
Mrs Kell: My Mum was definitely a source of inspiration and still is. Whilst I was at school, my Mum sat her A Levels and completed a Law Degree. I admired her work ethic and would always find her reading and asleep on a morning, dressed, surrounded by her books! She also was key in demonstrating life-long passion for learning. When doing her Biology A Level, she would visit museums and showed an insatiable appetite to learn as much as she could and modelled to me that passion for knowledge.
Mrs Wilson: My Headmistress was an inspiration to me as was a lady called Frances Mary Buss. She was a pioneer in women's education and wanted to make sure girls had the same opportunities as were available to their brothers. Her determination means that today girls have equal access to school, exams and qualifications and can go to university.
Me: I'm always hearing advice and specifically of adults around me saying “I was once 12 years old, I do know.” On the subject of IWD I’m sure there would be lots of advice to pass down or share.
What would you say to your 12 year old self or any 12 year old today to encourage her to be a powerful, innovative and confident woman?
Mrs Wilson: Don't be afraid to be yourself. Follow your dreams and do not let anyone try to put you off or suggest you cannot make it.
Mrs Kell: I think being 12 is difficult. Young people often feel a huge pressure to fit in with their peers and social media ideals (which is very different now, to when I was 12). I would say join in with anything you have the opportunity to, don't close down friends and opportunities too early and know that you are enough.
Me: IWD is about acknowledging great things women have done but I can’t help sense it promotes the idea of powerful women. We are all powerful in our own way and in the things we do. What does the idea of power mean to you, and do you consider yourself to be a powerful female?
Mrs Wilson: I suppose in a way I am powerful as the Head of the School, but for me with power comes responsibility to do the right things and to use that power for good and to improve the lives of others. Power is a privilege and should never be used to undermine others or make others feel small.
Mrs Kell: I don't tend to think about or frame my thoughts around 'power'. I think the word itself has negative connotations. I like to think of it as 'sphere of influence' as I moved from a leader of a classroom to Assistant Head, Deputy Headteacher and Head of the Prep, I have had more opportunities to grow my sphere of influence on the education of the pupils in my school. I would consider myself confident, with a secure sense of self-worth. Through coaching experiences, I have had the opportunity to dig deeper into my motivations and character and this has allowed me to view myself in role more transparently and question my approach at times. Teachers by nature are reflective, and I think that that is a good basis for leadership.
Me: Sticking with the word powerful, have you ever been in a situation that made you question your ability of being a powerful women?
Mrs Wilson: Luckily no, but I am a fairly confident person.
Mrs Kell: Absolutely. I have questioned my own ability at times. I am fortunate to have a superb leadership team at Collegiate and I value their contributions in all school decisions. Sometimes, I surprise myself and other times I recognise where particular knowledge, skills and talents lie in the wider team and ensure that the right people are doing the right roles.
Me: A statement published in recent years said teaching in education was made up of 69% females and 31% males. However, 36% of Head Teachers are female. That means 64% in leadership roles are male. The stereotypical idea is males are able to lead better than their female colleagues and women were more likely to hit a barrier when selected for interviews. The fact I am interviewing you both today as Heads of both Senior and Prep means neither hit a glass ceiling in your careers. Girl Power! What is it like being a female in your chosen career today and are you aware of the gender gap in education leadership roles?
Mrs Wilson: Being a female Headmistress is not unusual, but there are far more men leading mixed schools than women. A lot of women tend to go for girls only schools. In schools generally there are more men in leadership roles: Heads, Deputy Heads and Assistant Heads than women.
Mrs Kell: This is a super question. In primary Headship, the percentage of females in role outweighs males in my experience, but in the Independent sector it is very much a pendulum in the other direction. I remember my first Independent Headteacher conference approximately 500 Headteachers and only 50+ were female. I had never been to a leadership event where there was a huge queue for the male toilets and no queue at all for the ladies! I would not say that I feel that my day-to-day role is impacted by gender.
Me: Encouraging posts and comments are everywhere; social media posts, between friends and naturally from parents, teachers and everyone that knows someone. Everyone wants everyone to do their best and competition is out there. How do you encourage your female work friends to fulfil their dreams to climb the career ladder?
Mrs Wilson: By reminding them that they can do anything they set their minds to. By reminding them that unless they go for the top jobs they will never know and won't be in the running.
Mrs Kell: In terms of my female friends at work or other, I remember the Executive Headteacher that saw my potential long before I did, said 'You will be a Headteacher one day', and at that point I was a class teacher and had not considered my school career beyond that. All I saw was that leadership would take me away from the classroom and as I loved that, I was settled as I was. But I firmly believe that it was those seeds that she planted and the opportunities I then had to make the most of, that led me on this path. So, I am about affirming people, giving them opportunities to see themselves as capable. I don't believe that great leaders are just 'born leaders' I think that leadership can be grown.
Me: I have a fair way to go before I’m grown up and can reflect on significant proud moments but so far, I am proud of being a Collegian, that I try my best and work hard in school. Proud of my medals I have won doing baton twirling competitions, and really for sticking to and being accountable for finishing this piece of written work when I know I don’t really enjoy writing and I find it hard. I think that’s why I was challenged to do it but have really enjoyed it. What are you most proud of?
Mrs Wilson: I am proud that I am the Headmistress of HCS and that I got here through hard work and determination. I am also proud of the fact that I went to Cambridge University even though one of my teachers told me when I was 13 that I would never make it.
Mrs Kell: This is a tough one! I am most proud of my children I would say, and also of the education that Hull Collegiate School has been able to offer during this period of lockdown. I don't think we could have done any more and staff have been unremitting in upskilling their IT capability to deliver the very best virtual lessons we can during this period. The pupils of all ages have continued to make us extremely proud.
Me: Finally, purple is the colour linked with IWD. Will you be wearing something purple on the 8th March 2021 and encouraging others in your workplace to as well?
Mrs Wilson: I will try to - certainly we will mark the day somehow.
Mrs Kell: Absolutely I will Amelia and I will look to increase the awareness of this date in the school community also.
A huge thank you to both Mrs Wilson and Mrs Kell for agreeing and taking part in my written piece. All teachers play an enormous part in students' lives, not just the female ones. They often take on roles further than their job description and in my opinion are like second parents; teaching, encouraging and even mediating fall outs. So, a shout out to you both. I have really enjoyed writing this piece and attempting to structure it as an interview you would find published in a magazine. I have enjoyed researching and looking into all the ways in which we can encourage and support gender equality in our daily lives and on a bigger scale. I will be looking to do a piece on International Men’s Day in November to acknowledge some great male influences in my life too.