Teach boys how to have it all, says girls' schools leader
Schools should do more to prepare boys for their future roles as working fathers, in which they will be juggling family life and a career, a leading figure in girls' education has said.
Charlotte Vere said that boys need to be prepared for the task of "sharing the burden" of childcare and household chores with their partners, as "team parenting" becomes the norm and women demand equality.
Ms Vere, executive director of the Girls' Schools Association, which represents almost 180 independent girls' schools including Cheltenham Ladies' College and Roedean, said boys could otherwise get "quite a big shock" when they find their partners are just as ambitious in their careers as they are.
"Team parenting is the way the world is moving. With changes in parental leave, we have to recognise that women will need to work for the financial resilience of their families. Men will need to share more of the burden than they have been," said Ms Vere, who is also the founder of campaign group Women On and a trustee of the Fatherhood Institute thinktank.
"I don't know whether schools with boys have caught up with (the changes)," she added. "I would encourage them to talk to their boys about family responsibilities and how they might work for them - boys need to be prepared for that. I'm preparing my son for that: 'Guess what? Mummies go out to work.'
"Boys are going to have quite a big shock when they meet their life partner. They are going to be marrying or be partnered with someone as educated or more educated than they are, who has the same expectations in terms of the career as they do. It's critical to make sure that young men understand that."
Ms Vere, who stood as a parliamentary candidate for the Conservative Party in the 2010 general election, spoke out as the government is preparing to introduce new laws that will enable parents to take a flexible and equal share of the maternity leave allowance. The move is designed to prevent women from dropping out of the workplace, and to give men the chance to take a greater role in providing care.
Her comments mirror those of former Girls' Schools Association president Jill Berry who, in 2009, said that schools needed to teach girls about the realities of having children and juggling priorities. She caused a media stir when she said that schools needed to be honest in saying that life may be more complicated than simply "having it all".
"(Girls) will need to realise that there may be times when they might not want to work, or they might want to take a lesser job because their priorities have changed," she said at the time. "It is important that they leave school at 18 with their eyes open."
In a wide-ranging interview, former banker Ms Vere, who took the helm at the Girls' Schools Association in January, also called for more girls to enter the banking industry, despite the recent backlash against the profession.
"Bankers have been unfairly vilified," she said. "There is a vast array of jobs in banking. There have been some people who have done some appalling things but we need more females to get involved in the industry."
Ms Vere added that the past five years have been damaging to banking, which may now be perceived as a "bad" career because of the actions of a few. "Females around the margins who think they are not resilient enough might decide, 'I don't want to do it,'" she said.
CHARLOTTE VERE CV
Educated at Stover School in Devon.
BSc in biochemical engineering from University College London.
MBA from the Kellogg School of Management in the US.
Chief executive of Big White Wall, an organisation providing mental health therapies online.
Finance director of a leading digital recruitment company, and an investment banker.
Finance director for the No to AV campaign.
Parliamentary candidate for the Conservative Party in the 2010 election.
Founder of the Women On feminist thinktank.