Resilience and self-confidence vital to stopping 'tiara syndrome' says schools chief

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Schools should help girls to become more resilient, self-confident and assertive – qualities that will help them succeed in their long-term careers.

That’s the view of Helen Fraser, chief executive of the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST), who is concerned that after doing well at school, university and during their early years at work many women get overtaken by men between the “lost decades” of 30 and 50.

She told delegates at the GDST’s annual conference last week that the reason for this isn’t “babies” – because there are numerous examples of successful women combining high-powered jobs with bringing up children.

She said, however, that young women often get overlooked for promotion and pay rises because of “tiara syndrome” – a phrase coined by Negotiating Women, a US firm that coaches women in leadership skills.

It refers to the fact that even though they are highly talented, organised and flexible, they downplay their achievements far more than men – assuming that bosses will recognise their work and place a metaphorical tiara on their head.

“Girls need to be out and proud and claim their successes,” said Ms Fraser, who cited the example of Wimbledon High School, a GDST school where girls recently staged a “blow your own trumpet” week.  

“It isn’t unfeminine, it isn’t showing off and it isn’t unkind to tell colleagues when you have accomplished a great piece of work. One of the things that I have noticed about women at the top of the tree – CEOs, vice chancellors, senior politicians, even headteachers – is that they are completely unembarrassed about talking about their achievements. They know what they have done and they are calm and happy to tell the world.”

Ms Fraser added: “We hope and believe that our girls leave their schools and universities believing that they can do anything.

“We need to keep and cherish that ambition and determination in our young women, capture for society and for organisations all that brilliance, independence and eagerness to learn and ensure that when working life is bumpy they are equipped with the kind of resilience and inner confidence which enables them to rise to the top.”


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