Beyond School: Pymble Ladies’ College setting girls up for career success

Agenda setter … Pymble Ladies’ College principal Dr Kate Hadwen.

It’s well known that women climb the corporate ladder much more slowly than men and rarely reach the same heights. Motherhood is often blamed for impeding women’s career progression but it seems that the difficulty lies elsewhere.

A 2017 McKinsey report found that women are underrepresented in the corporate world from the outset with fewer female entry-level hires and greater barriers to promotion than men.

“The biggest gender gap is at the first step up to manager: entry-level women are 18 per cent less likely to be promoted than their male peers,” the Women in the Workplace 2017 report says.

“This gender disparity has a dramatic effect on the pipeline as a whole. If entry-level women were promoted at the same rate as their male peers, the number of women at the senior vice president and C-suite levels would more than double.”

Redressing this imbalance is one of the main aims of newly appointed Pymble Ladies’ College principal Dr Kate Hadwen. 

“I’d like to think we can start to better understand that and start to really work on it for our girls so that when they do get into their mid-20s and they’re at their first point of promotion, actually we can start to shift that needle a bit,” Dr Hadwen says.

“I’m really passionate about girls’ education. For me, helping young women, particularly in the workforce will probably be the tenor of my life’s work now.”

Dr Hadwen comes to Pymble Ladies’ College after four years as principal at PLC Perth. She’s worked in a variety of teaching roles at both the primary and secondary levels and taught in every state bar South Australia. 

She sits on several national boards, remains an adjunct research fellow at both the University of Western Australia and Edith Cowan University and was awarded the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research in 2011.

Improving young women’s career prospects is an eminently realisable ambition, Dr Hadwen says, and as principal of Pymble Ladies’ College she is well placed to see it through.

Research shows that single sex schooling is immensely beneficial for girls, especially in terms of academic results and engagement with STEM subjects, she says.

But it also impacts character development, Dr Hadwen says, citing a recent Australian study by Dr Terry Fitzsimmons that analysed “self-efficacy” — a psychometric term denoting self-confidence and resilience — in boys and girls attending single-sex schools.

“All the studies previous to that had said when girls finish school, their self-efficacy is lower than boys on average. His work found that actually, no, at single sex girls’ schools and single sex boys’ schools, when they finish Year 12, it’s the same.” 

She says that these results are probably because girls’ schools tend to explicitly teach leadership skills and provide an environment that is all “about developing strong women, developing women who have resilience, women who are future leaders, who understand what that looks like — to feel comfortable to be a young woman and to step forward confidently.”

Actively supporting girls’ wellbeing is an integral part of that, Dr Hadwen says. At PLC Perth she developed a world-leading health and wellbeing curriculum and dedicated wellbeing centre because “evidence shows that where schools have implemented a wellbeing program, there’s an 11 per cent increase in academic outcome,” Dr Hadwen says.

Girls are experiencing anxiety at “record highs” and technology, particularly social media, is exacerbating the trend while contributing to an epidemic of sleep deprivation amongst adolescents, she says. Parents often struggle to rein in their teenagers’ mobile phone dependency and need help, which is what led her to introduce a “no technology after bedtime” policy at PLC Perth.

The “wildly successful” initiative saw a whole of school pledge to turn off phones and other devices at bedtime. As a result, Dr Hadwen says that the girls got more sleep and no longer felt compelled to maintain a 24/7 social media presence. 

“When I announced it to the girls and the community, I was inundated; my in-box overflowed with messages from parents saying thank you,” she says.

Interestingly, reducing technology use also serves to increase self-efficacy in children. As Dr Fitzsimmons concluded in his report: “Overall, computer gaming and social media usage were identified as the greatest detractors from the development of self-confidence.”

There are many strands to supporting girls to succeed not just academically but for their whole life. As principal at Pymble Ladies’ College, Dr Hadwen says she is looking forward to “pushing that agenda” even further.

With approximately 2250 students, Pymble Ladies’ College is the largest girls’ school in Australia and, at 103, one of the oldest. It is also, thanks to its “long-standing history of excellence” very influential, Dr Hadwen says.

“What we do at Pymble sets the pathway for what other girls’ schools do. I think that’s a really unique position to be in as a leader of a girls’ school — to have that exciting opportunity but also that responsibility about where education for girls might go in the future,” she says. 

References

Women in the Workplace 2017 — Alexis Krivkovich, Kelsey Robinson, Irina Starikova, Rachel Valentino, and Lareina Yee, McKinsey and LeanIn.Org, October 2017
https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/gender-equality/women-in-the-workplace-2017

Hands up for Gender Equality: A Major Study into Confidence and Career Intentions of Adolescent Boys and Girls — Dr Terry Fitzsimmons, Miriam Yates and Victor Callan, AIBE Centre for Gender Equality in the Workplace, University of Queensland, 2018
https://bel.uq.edu.au/files/28153/Hands_up_for_Gender_Equality.pdf

Collecting Technology at Bedtime — Dr Kate Hadwen, LinkedIn.Com, October 31, 2017
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/collecting-technology-bedtime-dr-kate-hadwen/

Proof positive: Knox Grammar transforms traditional education for the 21st century

Total Fitness … Knox Grammar School’s innovative Positive Education program is a quantifiable success.

Boasting stately buildings and manicured grounds, Knox Grammar School on Sydney’s Upper North Shore would appear to be the epitome of old school.

But looks are deceiving. Knox is in its 10th year of a transformational project to bring pastoral care to the forefront of the school’s culture. Its Total Fitness program broadens the school’s remit to cultivate students’ characters as well as their minds. Integrating the principles of Positive Education into a traditional academic setting, Knox’s cutting-edge methodology seeks to equip students with the knowledge and life skills required to flourish in a globalised economy.   

“We are renewing the traditional model of education through thoughtful innovation and a focus on preparing students for a rapidly changing world,” says Scott James, the school’s newly appointed headmaster.

“The 21st century is an interconnected, diverse world. Students need to develop empathy and collaboration skills to prepare themselves for the evolving workplace of the future.”

Positive Educator … Knox Grammar School’s newly appointed headmaster Scott James.

The program has special relevance for Mr James who initiated a re-think of pastoral care when he came to Knox in 2009 as head of the Senior School. An extensive research review lead the school council to adopt Positive Education as an evidence-based framework for a rejuvenated school culture. Working with Sydney’s Positive Psychology Institute Knox developed its data-driven Total Fitness Positive Education program in alignment with the school’s unique heritage and values.

“Total Fitness is about holistic education. We focus on the whole student — academic, social, physical and spiritual aspects — based on the science and evidence of Positive Education. All our staff are trained in it, which allows them to focus on the optimal functioning of students in our care,” says Mr James.

Since its implementation in 2011, Knox has tracked the program’s impact on staff and students. The results demonstrate improvement in key areas of the school with the Knox community enjoying significantly greater stakeholder satisfaction than that of comparable schools.

While the data offer quantifiable proof that Knox is tracking in the right direction, Positive Education has made a difference at every level of school life, Mr James says, by nurturing “non-cognitive life skills, such as “empathy, tolerance, compassion and understanding of other people’s points of view”.

“I can see it in the everyday development of these skills in the staff and students. You can see it in the classroom and on the sporting field.”

The equal emphasis on staff wellbeing distinguishes Positive Education from other pastoral care models and underscores the school’s holistic educational approach.

At Knox, every activity presents a mentoring opportunity. “All our teachers are also mentors trained in Positive Education,” says Mr James.

Holistic approach … Every teacher at Knox Grammar School is also a mentor trained in Positive Education.

Adult guidance is supplemented by ‘boy to man’ mentor programs, Mr James says, “because we believe boys learning from boys is critical”.

Knox is a perennial high achiever in the HSC but recent years have seen even better results with the school ranking in the top 20 last year.

Mr James attributes this happy outcome to the extensive support the school offers students in those stressful senior years. “In years 11 and 12 we have a senior academic mentor to help the boys with time management and goal setting. Students have a mentor for the pastoral side and the academic side,” Mr James says.

In the school’s boarding houses Positive Education extends to every aspect of student life. “Our staffing structures facilitate a family atmosphere for boarders with a husband and wife team leading each house, while our “whole of life” boarding programs give boys opportunities to acquire life skills and credentials,” Mr James says. “We support them to do their RSA course, barista courses, learner driving as well as co-curricular activities.”

“Our boarders are extremely successful academically. There’s no doubt that the academic support and availability of resources 24/7 that contributes to that,” he says.

Proud heritage … Knox Grammar School offers best-practice education in a traditional setting.

Improved wellbeing and academic outcomes are just the beginning though. Mr James has an ambitious and wide-ranging plan for the school’s progress in the years to come.

He is “committed to building a learning community of the highest quality” that will empower students to succeed to their fullest potential. Central to this project is the cultivation of core character traits: integrity, resilience and the pursuit of excellence.

“My vision is to be an exemplary school developing within a caring, Christian environment to produce young people with a sure knowledge of who they are and how they want to live,” Mr James says.

“I have key focus areas for the school: leadership, teaching excellence, learning excellence, Knox Total Fitness and global mindfulness, which is critical to give students the opportunity to engage in social justice programs, community service and immersion activities. These experiences give students a sense of mastery and efficacy and help to develop rapport with other people,” he says.

“Knox is a school for boys of all abilities, races and creeds where they’re supported as equals. With our understanding of mental fitness we can teach boys to deal with setbacks and develop grit. We emphasise ‘stickability’ — staying on task and employing a growth mindset.

“Intelligence is not innate but can be developed.”

 

References

Knox Grammar School website
http://www.knox.nsw.edu.au/

Positive Psychology At Work: Research & Applications – Part 3 School Case Study & Impacts
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-x5ksxyHC8k

Positive Psychology At Work: Research & Applications – Part 4 School Case Study & Impacts
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExTxdUuUvkk