Girls, You Can Change The World, Little By Little…Together – Jennifer Oaten

Santa Maria College girls have created, designed, built, innovated, and helped shape the world as we know it today. They have been responsible for some great achievements and are some of our greatest leaders.

As a school of 1300 girls and 150 staff, I ask all our girls to join together so that we can be part of the national effort to promote equality for all women, not just on International Women’s Day but every day. We are all called to take action. To take practical steps to create a world free from stereotypes and discrimination, break the bais, and make inroads towards equality in work and life. Changing the world is a complex problem, but every small change we make is one step closer.

Grace Tame recently said, ‘Australia, we need to talk’ about some of the issues facing women today. As a Principal, a woman and a mother, I want every girl at Santa Maria to talk about how they can……….

1. Be an individual

Don’t model yourself on others who try to influence you or persuade you to do something. Be an individual and create your own image, not an image based on what you see on Instagram or Tik Tok. Social media is one of the most devastating tools of today. It is a means of devaluing and judging others from afar. Followers and likes, why do these matter so much? It won’t matter next week or in the future. Don’t let social media define you; establish your own style.

2. Stand tall

Be confident about your abilities; girls can do anything! Have conversations about varied career pathways, particularly less typical careers and the need for more women to take these pathways. Young women in work often talk about the self-doubt that holds them back and the voice at your shoulder saying, you aren’t good enough. All young women should feel valued; your self-worth should not be based on what others think. Be an independent, capable woman and don’t rely on others. Get your licence, understand your finances and learn about superannuation and shares.

3. Be confident

You are inherently beautiful; much of your beauty is hidden within you. We are such critical creatures, fixated on how we look. Acceptance comes when you realise that your imperfections are exactly what makes you, you. Confidence is the energy that makes a woman admired by others, not what we wear. Recognise your own beauty, and those around you will recognise it, too. There are many ways to be recognised other than through appearance. Beauty isn’t the only thing that makes you special. Confidence won’t come from makeup and new clothes but from accepting yourself as ‘you’, recognising your imperfections as simply human and part of who you are.

4. Support other girls

Support other girls to be great. We need to be strong, supportive friends who want others to shine. Be inclusive, not judging others but helping them to not only do great things but to simply do their best. Peer perspective is so important in our lives that you need to make sure the words and actions you choose help others to thrive. Words can stick with people their entire lives, negative or positive, so choose your words carefully. Support brave girls and value their friendships. Surround yourself with female figures who inspire you, uplift you and encourage you to step out of your comfort zone. Who can you help thrive today?

5. Call out inequality

Call out friends and family members, males and females, who don’t demonstrate equality. Have high expectations and be a voice holding others to account. What we don’t call out, we accept. We don’t need to be better than others, just equal. We have so much to offer; we deserve equal treatment and equal pay. Get your male friends and family on board. If we are to break the bias, we need to get all genders, not just females, on board. How can you use your voice to speak out for all women? It is not easy to do; it takes much courage, but speaking up is the first step towards the equality we search for.

6. Be a problem solver

Solutions to some of our world’s most pressing problems could be out there in the minds of girls here at Santa Maria. The world needs the bright young minds of each of you to innovate and solve society’s biggest challenges. Don’t let problems stop you. A female perspective in all of these challenges is critical. Why not be the female who puts her hand up, steps forward and takes responsibility to make a difference.

7. Trust your inner voice

Chances are, what feels wrong is wrong. Don’t allow yourself to be persuaded by others’ voices if they push you to do anything that makes you uncomfortable. Speak up and be heard. Your most trustworthy voice is within you. Stand strong to your values and what feels right for you. We are responsible for our own thoughts and actions.

8. Be compassionate

As Jacinta Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, says, ‘You can be strong, yet compassionate.’ Everyone has a story they carry with them. Avoid making assumptions; you never really know what another is going through. Take the time to know others and understand them as a person and what makes them unique. Be compassionate, be inclusive and avoid petty gossip. Kindness and compassion make others feel valued and that they belong, something we all crave.

Every year 180 Year 12 students graduate. If they can each influence two other women, that is, 540 women standing together to support and grow other women.

While there are many challenges in making change, we need to stand tall, be confident and have a voice so that girls who follow in our footsteps will find our world a little more equal, respectful, and safe.

Become the incredible woman you are meant to be! And help another young woman to be the incredible woman she is meant to be. Santa Maria girls can be the change.

Let’s start today to #createthechange. 

Remember we can make the change little by little…. together.

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