Presentation of the A Level Certificates and Awards Evening
One key event this week and an important occasion in our calendar was the Presentation of A Level Certificates to our students who left in the summer. Their achievements were once again excellent and many of them are now at university on courses they chose over a year ago. Some have taken a gap year or a deferment and some are in employment and on training courses. LINK to Destinations. Our guest speaker this year was Jennifer Brace, a former student and now a lawyer at an international firm in Bristol. Her biography is here. Like previous speakers Jennifer spoke about her experiences since leaving Kendrick and then gave the students some advice. Below are some extracts from of her speech.
While thinking about this speech I've tried to think about what is important to me now and what would have helped me to know or bear in mind when I was leaving school.
- Make the effort with your friends and loved ones. In 2007 when I left school, the iPhone had just come out and people were just joining Facebook as they arrived at university. For me, this meant that social media was part of my life but not in such an all-encompassing way as it is today. Please do make the effort to see people and keep in touch with them more than just online. It can seem easy not to put a date in the diary but believe me, time will go very quickly if you don't. My two bridesmaids were Kendrick girls and I am so grateful to have friends that have known me for such a long time. Your friends from school are invaluable in that way. Equally, invest in the new friends you make and take a genuine interest in their lives. It makes life so much more rewarding. The same goes for family – I am fortunate enough to have a fantastic mum – your Chair of Governors as it happens – and dad and spending time with family and friends is something social media cannot replace. My son Rupert had a very difficult start in life and Matt and I would not have got through it without the love and support from each other and family and friends. I am therefore a firm believer that you reap what you sow when it comes to relationships.
- Keep talking. This is linked to my first point. Whether it's to teachers, friends, family or someone you meet on your travels, please try not to keep your thoughts bottled up. I'm not just talking about difficult feelings or thoughts - sharing a positive idea or message is equally important. I have a great line manager at work with whom I’m honest about what’s going on - it makes our working relationship so much easier. You are all high achievers – you may not feel like it because you will all have done exceptionally well in this room, but you are. Kendrick is the most fantastic bubble which fosters your confidence and helps prepare you for the outside world. But the outside world is difficult in ways that are different to academic pressures. The best and healthiest way of coping with those difficulties is to talk about them, so please, however you can, make sure you share how you are feeling with someone you trust. Equally, you will be incredibly busy people, but if someone asks if they can have a chat, please do give them your time, as it will make all the difference to them.
- Work out what your values and priorities are. As I say, you will be busy women, so make sure you are keeping yourself busy with what matters to you and being effective about it. For me, I love reading, so I make time in the evenings for me to read and also go to a book group with my friends - harder than it sounds with a one year old! Having said this, don't be afraid if you haven't worked it all out – you're only 18 or 19 and this early part of your adult life is to explore and try new experiences. But once you've found what makes you an individual, stay true to that, whether that's fighting for climate change or being passionate about historical houses.
Having explained what I’ve been up to and given you some advice, I’d like to set you a challenge, and it’s to do with feminism and putting that advice into practice. I have become increasingly interested in feminism over the last few years, both inside and out of the workplace. This is due to events in the news, such as the Equal Pay scandal at the BBC as well as various books I have read, which I’m very happy to recommend to anyone who is interested. I am also involved in Osborne Clarke’s work to improve their support of women within the business - a topic in itself.
While the term has historically come with some baggage, being a feminist means believing in political, economic and social equality between men and women. This should not be a controversial stance within society but some people do struggle with it. However, there has been a huge shift in feminism in the last 3 years, prompted in part by the ‘MeToo’ scandal. Women are finally speaking out, together, and bringing awareness to the masses via social media. It is fascinating to be a part of the generation where gradually the status quo is changing and rather than just being talked about, women are making genuine strides towards equality. We are still far away from that ideal, but even small elements such as female presenters taking over from retiring male ones contribute to society accepting women are just as capable as men.
I recently read about the absence of women from the creation of most societal norms - from algorithms to medicinal doses to government policy. There is a wide reaching gap in evidence specific to women, and this propagates bias towards men in all areas. While this is one level of gender inequality, another more visible gap is women in positions of responsibility - of the FTSE 350 companies, only 14 women are chief executives there. This is up from 12 last year, but makes for slow progress. I was heartened last week to read that Finland has just appointed its first female Prime Minister to lead an all female coalition government - it is news such as this which ensures the social conversation continues around female progression.
Kendrick has fostered your talent as exceptional women and amply prepared you for the outside world. However, you have been fortunate enough to study alongside just other girls. The world you are about to venture out to sadly has a lot of men in a lot of powerful positions. Do not be cowed by this but understand that just because that is how it currently is, does not mean it must remain so. Hold on to your confidence that Kendrick has instilled in you.
My challenge to you is to go out there and fight for your place at the table, whatever form that table may take. Use that sense of community that Kendrick creates to help create opportunities for other women whenever you see them. There is the societal will for change and you have the intelligence and skills to be an important part of that. Confidence is key - I know you will all go on to achieve great things and be great examples to other women. However, there are many ways to do this so you must find the right way for you. The actress Viola Davis said ‘Do not live someone else’s life and someone else’s idea of what womanhood is. Womanhood is you.’ I think this is an important message to keep with you when navigating the next stage of your life.
We are lucky enough to live in a progressive country but a country which is not without its challenges. Make the effort with your relationships, keep talking, be a feminist, and I’m sure you will enjoy building on the fantastic foundation Kendrick has helped you create. Many congratulations to you all.
I would like to thank Jennifer for the good advice and challenge she set the students which I feel could extend to all of us. As we finish the term and year, let us all take on board some of Jennifer’s advice: make time for our friends and family, keep talking about the easy things but also the more difficult, this is also good for our mental health and wellbeing, think about what is important in our lives and the values we hold dear to us and not waver in our support of them.
Ms Christine Kattirtzi