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26 March

Important Conversations and Instigating Change. King’s and OVs agree it’s time to “Change the Narrative”.

With International Women’s Day and the devastating and brutal kidnapping and murder of Sarah Everard this month, many important and long overdue conversations and movements have been taking place both at King’s and around the country, addressing gender inequality and sexism within our communities.

King’s Headmaster, Gareth Doodes gave an incredibly impactful and important assembly to the School body recently when he addressed the need to “change the narrative”, encourage mutual respect, look at the undercurrents of sexism in reporting and messaging and crucially to dissipate the climate of fear. The assembly is transparently honest.

As Gareth has made clear on many occasions for all of us at King’s, diversity and gender equality is at the heart of the School’s vision going forward. March has therefore been a momentous and important month for King’s with two huge historical moments taking place.

Firstly, we have been delighted this week to announce, jointly with Worcester Cathedral, that both boys and girls will equally enjoy the benefits and many opportunities that being a Cathedral chorister offer. Going forwards there will be choral scholarships for both boys and girls, and girls will enjoy singing at the same number of Cathedral services and events.

In another first this week, King’s School Governors have been delighted to announce that Patricia Preston is the new Chair of Governors. Pat takes her place as the first ever female Chair of The King’s School Worcester Board of Governors.

Pat has worked for over 25 years in a variety of marketing roles for Beecham Pharmaceuticals, now GlaxoSmithKline (1981-1984), H Samuel Jewellers (1984-1987), Charles Green Jewellery (1987-1990), Business Link Hereford & Worcester (1997-1999) and Tube Plastics Group (1999-2011).  She has also lectured part-time on the CIM Marketing Courses at Worcester College of Technology. In recent years, working for Robovision Ltd, Pat has specialised in new product development with particular focus on intellectual property, sustainable product sourcing and supply chain management, including the establishment of new partnerships in Eastern Europe and the Far East.

Already known and respected as both a Governor and also a Trustee of the King’s School Development Trust, we are delighted that Pat has been elected to this role and we thoroughly look forward to working with her in our development and alumni relations activities.

We have been delighted to see that female and male OVs have been starting conversations and instigating change when it comes to talking about gender imbalance and sexism.

King’s Barnabas speaker Claire Gott MBE (Cl 97-06) is Head of Industry and Corporate Social Responsibility at WSP, one of the world’s leading engineering professional services companies, and she is a true advocate for female engineers.  She shared with us her thoughts on this subject, “I’m passionate about mentoring and inspiring the next generation of female engineers to play a more influential role, not just because gender balance is morally important but because diverse and inclusive teams perform better”.

OV Alex Wenyon (Cr 07-14) is a Campaign Management Controller at Nissan Motor Corporation GB. She told us “This year, for International Women’s Day I chose to challenge the lack of gender balance on the board of directors within Nissan Motor GB in the next 5-10 years by supporting and encouraging fellow women around me. Late last year I submitted a project proposal which strives to achieve zero inequalities within the company and in particular on the board of directors which is currently made up of all male members. This is common place in the automotive industry which has traditionally been a male dominated environment. This project proposal was one of many to be submitted to the Managing Director who has encouraged us to come together to bring positive change to the business. I am excited to see where this will lead!

Out of the office, I am a cox for the Molesey Boat Club Men’s squad and have been coxing since starting at King’s in 2009. Rowing, like many other sports, still has a long way to go in achieving gender balance. Henley Royal Regatta has sixteen men’s events compared to eight women’s! I think that we should work to have an equal number of men’s and women’s events at HRR to showcase the elite talent of both genders. This would make it more of an honour to race at the regatta and would give more women the opportunity to get a race down the full course. The standard of racing would be higher and it would be a great platform to showcase the best of the best.”

Alex was recently interviewed on the blog “Row Like a Girl” where she spoke on her experiences and hopes on gender equality in rowing. In the interview Alex said “I feel that there is still work to be done in the UK at an international level, especially in terms of providing equal opportunities for coxes to be considered for seats in either squad.   It’s been really encouraging to see Kendall Brodie and Aranka Kops coxing their respective countries in the Men’s 8s at the World Championships; it would be great to see GB flying the flag for this as well!”.

Former Head of School, Joe Fowles (Cl 05-12), is Engagement Manager at the consultancy firm Oliver Wyman, and he has worked extensively on gender diversity topics in recent years and he shared with us the following: “Time and again, our research has highlighted the significant gender imbalances in finance and entrepreneurship – whether it be the challenges facing female founders seeking venture capital, the outsize impact of COVID-19 on female entrepreneurs’ businesses, or the continued lack of diversity at Board and senior management level in financial services. These are systemic issues that require sustained and coordinated action across public and private sector – but individuals can also make a difference. This is why I founded a male allyship network at Oliver Wyman. Our mission is to engage male colleagues and encourage awareness, dialogue and action to decrease inequities in our firm and our society. Now operating across over 20 of our offices worldwide, we are helping to slowly move the dial on gender equality through sponsorship, amplification and education.”

And finally, current Head of School, Olivia told us this week, “It is so important that King’s is addressing the issue of gender equality, as even today many girls in school and women in wider society do not have, or feel as though they do not have, the same opportunities as men. King’s is launching a ‘change the narrative’ club which hopes to lead the movement of actively implementing gender equality into King’s life. This club will be: opening discussions around gender-based issues, inviting speakers into School to discuss topics such as sexual harassment and toxic masculinity, and using blank wall space across the School to showcase the stories of female success, whether this be OVs or other inspirational women. It makes me very proud to know that OVs all around the country are also playing a part in instigating change and promoting gender equality in their fields of work. My hope is that as this action continues, alongside the work of current King’s pupils, in 10 years’ time the King’s community, and schools across the country, will be a place where every girl knows she has the same opportunities as her male peers and can achieve whatever she sets her mind to.”

We read a quote this week; “bigoted thoughts can turn into bigoted words, which can turn into ‘empowered’ actions”.  We are pleased and proud to see the King’s family, staff, pupils, OVs and parents are taking decisive steps to encourage an inclusive and respectful environment.

In the words of Gareth Doodes, we all must “shout it out and at the same time, shout it down.”