Proponents of coeducation argue that our world and specifically our workplaces are mixed gender therefore our schools too should be mixed gender. But the reality for women is that our world and workplaces, while mixed gender, are a long way from being gender-equal.
Research into gender bias shows that girls as young as four years old perceive themselves to be less powerful than boys, and by the age of five, children are well on their way to learning gender stereotypes.
In high school girls are more likely to view their maths ability as “below average” and there’s a significant difference between girls’ and boys’ subject choices with fewer girls participating in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and fewer boys taking creative and humanities subjects. Once in the workplace women are not represented equally in senior leadership roles, they earn on average 19 per cent less than their male counterparts and are impacted more by childcare responsibilities and caring for aged parents.
One of the major hurdles to boosting the number of women in senior leadership positions and STEM careers is giving girls the motivation, self-belief and resilience to disrupt gender bias. This is happening in girls’ schools where girls are more likely to reject gender stereotypes and are bucking the trend when it comes to studying STEM subjects.
Girls’ schools are sending their students on to study business, law and STEM degrees in record numbers — it is these areas that are touted as the lifeblood of emerging knowledge based industries and jobs of the future.
Studies have shown that a girl’s environment plays an important role in explaining why she chooses to get involved and compete at school. Girls from single-sex schools behave more competitively than do coeducational girls, they are more assertive, willing to take risks, ask questions, make mistakes, and participate at higher levels in sport and physical education — skills that are advantageous for leadership and life success.
Vitally, girls’ schools provide a safe space for girls to learn to combat the gender bias and sexism that still exist within universities, workplaces and our broader communities — so that when girls leave school they know they are absolutely equal to their male peers and will accept nothing less.
Girls too are increasingly subjected to unrelenting pressure from traditional and social media over body image. They are often the victims of unwanted sexting, sexual harassment and exposure to pornography.