Speaking for Gender Equity at International School

DSC00215_copyIf the dynamic group of senior girls who pulled off an enlightening International Women’s Day at Zurich International School is any indication, the future for women is in good hands. This talented group of young ladies organized a memorable event reflecting on gender bias within art, sport and the work place.

The multicultural members of the committee were completing their final year of the international baccalaureate and on target to enter fields in law, medicine, and international relations at universities around the world.

I led off their program recounting the history of the pioneers in women’s sport and the impact of the groundbreaking Title IX amendment to the Civil Rights Act. As I explained legislation helps but attitudes take longer to change than laws. Gender biases are deeply ingrained.DSC00225

Real change has to start in the home with men sharing more equitably childcare and housekeeping chores. Brothers must contribute as equally to domestic chores as their sisters.

After speaking I answered a barrage of questions not only about my experiences, but also about what can steps can be taken towards gender equality.

A German boy in a Duke basketball jersey, an avid hoopster asked how young males growing up today can make things more equitable.

“Well, you can start by going home tonight and cooking dinner for your mama.”

Parents serve as our first role models, yet their roles as breadwinner and homemaker are so institutionalized that we don’t even think about it. Even if they work outside the home, women in all cultures continue to do the greatest percentage of work in home. Half of all women do some kind of housework compared to only one-fifth of men. If they are mothers, they spend twice as long as fathers doing unpaid domestic work each week. Within many societies the disparity is far greater.

Due to centuries of inequity, gender bias remains a pervasive part of our psyche.

Following my speech, Regina Lanford discussed how artistic images have perpetuated cultural prejudices about women. Then Eleanor (Tabi) Haller-Jorden, talked about the gender gap in leadership in corporations across Europe urging us to avoid gender stereotypes that are inherent in every culture.

After the speeches, a school band played hits of the seventies during lunch hour while the girls sold tulips in a pledge for parity. A lively panel discussion between teachers, parents, students, and speakers topped off the day.


International Women’s Day with Amy Greene, former DI player, coach, mom and assistant principal ZIS

Will the efforts of these young women in Zurich revolutionize the world? No, probably not. But their actions will raise eyebrows, increase awareness, and open dialogue. And if the turn out at ZIS International Women’s Day Celebration was any indication, with males in attendance in almost equal numbers, we are headed in the right direction.

But our work is cut out for us. “The World Economic Forum predicted in 2014 that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity. Only a year later 2015, they estimated that a slowdown in the already glacial pace of progress meant the gender gap wouldn’t close entirely until 2133.”

A study by McKinsey Global Institute shows that by advancing women’s equality $12 trillion could be added to the global GDP by 2025. We must pledge for parity in the public, private and social sectors. Raising awareness is a first step.

Our travail has just begun.


Posted in education, inspiration, relationships, social view.


    • Thanks Tinie, but looking smashing may be a stretch. You probably were stunned to see me decked out in something other than my standard sweatsuit and sneakers. ha

  1. I know it might feel like an uphill climb, Pat, but hang in there. The end result will be well worthwhile! Thank you for sharing this exciting day with those of us who couldn’t be there in person!

  2. I fear gender bias is in our DNA, dating back to cavemen days when men brought home the meat and warm fur and women bore the children. We must continue to try and elevate the way women are seen in the world, but it’s an uphill journey. Brenda

    • Brenda your line that gender bias is in our DNA dating back to caveman days would be so funny, if it didn’t appear to be so true. Fortunately there are men who do value women equally and I was lucky to find one.

  3. Well done 🙂 As long as we keep discussing equality issues such as gender we can help our young women and men of today realise how entrenched these issues are, and how we can make progress in small ways EVERY day if we have the willingness to reflect and then change! I wish I had been a fly on the wall for this presentation as gender equality is one thing I surely love to engage with. I was with you in spirit, and each day that I navigate gender issues in my life I try to open up people’s eyes to what they are unconsciously projecting onto me. It’s taken me years to transform my feelings of outrage at being treated as ‘other’ to instead show some big male bosses the mirror and guide them to reflect on what they have just said, done or made me feel as a woman. Love your passion for women’s right – keep it going xxx

    • When I was speaking I thought of you, Rachael, and the trail you are blazing, as well as the example you are setting for your students and your beautiful daughters. During the women’s day celebration we discussed how even today prejudice is deeply entrenched. One speaker revealed the ways that women continue to be discriminated against in the work place in Europe by this ingrained gender bias. You, too, must keep up your valuable work in your corner of the world and we will continue to cheer each other on long distance.xxx

      • Sweet… Thanks Pat! I can hear you cheering from all the way down under 🙂 xxx

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