Addressing the Dream Gap: The Role of All-Girls Schools in Shaping Girls' Futures

Catherine Hant, Head of School
I recently came across a powerful video created in support of Mattel’s Barbie Dream Gap Project, a global mission dedicated to closing the gap that’s created - and perpetuated - by typical gender stereotypes and biases. The video is a strong call to action for all of us to be champions and role models in the lives of girls and to create the kind of environments that allow girls and young women to reach their full potential.

As the video highlights, the Dream Gap does not derive from a lack of confidence, skill, desire or drive in girls. Rather, the Dream Gap exists because of the stereotypes and biases that exist even in today’s modern world. To me, this is the true value of a girls’ school - a girls’ school provides the girls-can-do-anything environment from the very beginning of a young women’s learning journey and keeps nurturing that mindset as she continues to learn and grow.

Critics argue that the all-girls environment does not reflect the real world, and therefore limits girls’ experiences and readiness for life after school. I challenge that by addressing the significant advantages in reaching girls early and often - before the dream gap can even begin to take hold in their bright, young minds. 

With built-in opportunities for role modeling and mentorship, girls schools naturally and easily create a positive environment that is conducive to high aspirations and lifelong success. At SMLS, the senior students and our active network of alumnae all over the world serve as direct sources of inspiration and examples of success, and we know from research that when young girls see themselves and their lived experiences represented in the workforce, that is when they begin to believe that they can be, and can do, anything. 

This is important and directly relevant to addressing the dream gap that exists in today’s world. Consider that most of the graduating classes at SMLS in recent years have seen at least half of the students going on to study STEM-related programs - fields of study such as engineering, computer science, and business. These are fields, which, on average, lead to better outcomes in the labour market including employment, job matching, and earnings. More women in these fields, earning as much, or more, than their male counterparts is how we close the gaps in access to opportunity, wage disparity, and girls’ ability to turn their dreams into reality. 

Closing the dream gap requires a collective effort and systemic changes to be sure. Instilling confidence, fostering mentorship and championing diverse pathways to success are all part of the collective work toward gender parity. This is the work that girls’s schools take on every day, delivering it straight to the people it benefits most - the young women of today, and the future leaders and trailblazers of tomorrow.