By Tim Bowden, Head Master, Trinity Grammar School
The School recently celebrated International Women’s Day. I addressed the Middle and Senior students on the topic at a Quad assembly; the text of my speech is below.
You will have noticed a large banner for International Women’s Day, which has been hanging over the Quad. I know that a number of you have been wondering ‘Why?’ Why are we focussing on International Women’s Day? After all, aren’t we a boys’ school? Let me give you three reasons why all-boys schools should focus on International Women’s Day.
First, we are a boys’ school, but we live in a co-ed world. More than half the people on the planet are female. You may not realise it yet, but your life story is inextricably intertwined with women. Standing behind and supporting you are generations of women in your family, whose commitment to your education comes at significant cost to them. Women are and will be your family and your friends. You will have women as your bosses, your colleagues, and your team. You will engage with women professionally and personally. You will live, work, worship, play, and socialise with women. You will learn from women and learn with women. The ability to co-exist, collaborate and connect with women is and will be a crucial life-skill for you. International Women’s Day is a reminder to us of that reality.
Second, we are a boys’ school, but our School community lives and breathes because of the women who contribute to it. Every day at school you will interact with women who will teach you, lead you, support you and care for you. Some of them will do it publicly as they stand up the front. Others will be quietly labouring unnoticed behind the scenes. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow you will benefit from the expertise, the skill, and the wisdom of women. International Women’s Day is a prompt to us to acknowledge the contributions of the women around us.
Third, in many ways around the world, women are subject to injustice. I read an account of the Boxing Day Tsunami, which attempted to account for the fact that, so many more little girls died than little boys. They found that one of the reasons is that, in the areas affected by the tsunami, little girls are not taught or encouraged to climb trees. As a result, as the torrent of water poured through their villages, escape by climbing was not an option for them. A small, simple poignant example of the way that gender bias can play out in injustice. That particular example isn’t relevant everywhere, but injustices abound. Domestic violence is overwhelmingly committed by men against women. Sexual harassment is overwhelmingly committed by men against women. Promotional opportunities in the workforce, and in public life, favour men.
I am not suggesting that we who stand here today are personally responsible for these things, although I am not suggesting that we have never contributed to gender bias in our contexts. However, I think that all of us can step up to challenge injustice. A couple of years ago the hashtag for International Women’s Day was #HeForShe. The slogan was calling one half of humanity to stand with the other half of humanity for the ultimate good of all. As a Christian, I think that #HeForShe – one half of humanity standing with the other half of humanity – perfectly summarises a Christian response by men and boys against the injustices that we see, even if the injustice benefits us.
So why do we highlight and celebrate International Women’s Day? It reminds us that we live in a co-ed world. It prompts us to acknowledge the women whose contribution to us is so profound. It calls us to be men who will stand with women in the battle against gender bias, discrimination and harassment.
I urge you to take the time, on International Women’s Day, to acknowledge those women whose gifts, expertise and efforts have supported you.
Detur Gloria Soli Deo
For over a hundred years Trinity Grammar School has educated boys in mind, body and spirit. Fuelled by a pastorally aware culture with exceptionally high levels of individual student attention, we aim to know, understand and nurture each student to help him realise his potential, passion and purpose in life.
Trinity aims to provide the best environment for boys to flourish and succeed. To learn about the Trinity difference and to discover why we’re one of Sydney’s top boys’ schools, subscribe to our newsletter.