Some people are unaware of the girls’ activity in which we strive for equal rights: GLTR (Girls’ Leadership Training) We recently joined this group to broaden our perspective of women’s rights and the inequalities women face. This group has been so informative, even in the past couple of weeks, that we have been able to experience the diverse perspectives of the girls at Waynflete. Each of us have our own unique perspective on the new “constitution” and its difficulties. In a meeting last week, we as a group discussed the process of how a bill gets passed. We were never old enough to understand the ins and outs of politics, but now are learning about the internal processes. The lengthy process of passing a bill includes left us personally in shock of how much veto power one segment of the government has.
Another way this group has been educational is letting us research independently the inequalities women face. To say that we live in a totally equal world is definitely an underestimate. We live in a biased and judgemental world. However this is changing. Bit by bit and acts by acts our world we know is changing. The major pay gap of men and latino women is astounding: latino women must work ten months to earn the same amount as white men make in one month. In an interview with one of our leaders we asked her the purpose of the group and she responded with, “I believe this group is set up to educate young women on the rights we have and have a support group in order to empower women.”
Below is interview with group leader Lydia Maier ’90 (Assistant Head for Student Life)
What are you goals for this activity?
Waynflete Girls’ Leadership Training (GLTR) formed in 2012 as a powerful positive reaction to the screening on campus of the film Miss Representation. Now in its fourth year, the group has become a safe place to identify and discuss obstacles women and girls face as they strive for success in our world. By examining ways our culture continues to be oriented toward masculine success, the group is committed to overcoming conditioning women too often receive to voluntarily take a back seat. We discuss both national and global current events that affect the condition of women or that highlight persistent inequalities and talk about action steps on both a small and grand scale that will help girls and women not to stop themselves or let anyone else stop them from reaching their full potential. An early vision of GLTR was to strengthen positive relationships between US and MS girls by engaging in a mentoring project designed to build confidence and leadership. Following the screening of Girl Rising, girls from GLTR are excited to host an active discussion with parents and students in the audience about the critical role of education in supporting increased leadership roles for women and girls. It is co-advised by Lindsay Kaplan and Lydia Maier.
How do you think this goals are educational to girls?
It feels really important for this generation of young women to define what feminism means to them and to explore where they feel most strongly about putting their individual and collective energy. It’s a very important time to be talking to other young women about the hurdles that still exist and this particularly charged climate. Where are the places that girls still struggle to get equal consideration and how do they manage to navigate the explicit double standards that still exist everywhere—messages about how girls should just “be themselves” exist but so does pressure to be both “smart and sexy” or “collaborative and independent” at the same time. Most people, women and men, are a lot more complex and multidimensional than the narrow gender portrayal in Hollywood, social media and advertising.
If there was a main statement, what would it be?
One main awareness that I hope everyone in the group takes with them to college is that no one has to make it alone in the world. There is power in really listening to each other’s experiences and not judging them. We can support one another and to reach out across gender, socioeconomic, cultural, racial, religious and political lines to acknowledge the institutional barriers to equality and still make very meaningful connections on a personal level. The civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson says if we want to be in the world to make a difference we have to “get proximate” and be willing to move in closer to people whose experiences are very different from our own. I think GLTR just increases our skills and confidence that being authentically curious about each other will not only help break down perceived barriers but increase empathy and understanding of who we are and how to make society better for everyone, not just women.
In each weekly meeting what do you observe or like most about this activity?
I love the way the student leaders invite check-ins from all members about the reality of their week and the stress or successes they are encountering. They create an inclusive vibe that suggests no one is alone in surfing the ups and downs of daily life. Their leadership breaks down any hierarchy about which year is more stressful- seniors show respect for the reality that 9th grade stressors are just as real as the stress of getting into college and that navigating interpersonal or family problems is hard at any age.
How has your viewpoint changed during/ throughout your time here?
I like to think my viewpoint is always changing as I listen to the experiences of young women today, compare them to my own, and continue to get excited about progress even though there are some frustrating inequalities that are changing so slowly (such as equal pay for equal work).
How do the students feel impacted or change from this activity?
I talk to a lot of alums who feel that Waynflete helped them find a voice. It’s great to hear of alums that are out there being resident counselors in their dorms, facilitating dialogue, and supporting people’s academic and personal journeys. GLTR has made an effort to do more canvassing for important social and political issues this year and to understand how policy gets made on a local and national level. We all got excited about the fact that the NYT reported unprecedented numbers of women running for office in the current political era. It feels like we might be watching a massive cultural shift.
What are some subtle changes that anyone could do on a daily basis?
In her new book, “Braving the Wilderness,” written post 2016 election, sociologist and researcher Brene Brown implores us to “move closer in” to one another and to go beyond the boxes of individual identity to experience our common humanity. It’s easier said than done, but even at Waynflete you can talk to someone who is a relative stranger to you and ask them how they are really doing. Just be brave and ask someone what their experience is like being male, female, trans, non-binary or any other identity different from yours. We can teach each other if we are not afraid.
How has the teacher student relationship been established through this activity?
Like all Waynflete activities, we work together to figure out what feels important. We are thinking about what events we might be able to organize for women’s history month in March.
Where do you see this activity going after?
The activity will change with the leaders and their interests, but already Lindsay and I see a lot of leadership and confidence growing in the underclasswomen.
Anything else to add?
I think Lindsay would share the opinion that it’s a great highlight in our week to get to spend time in authentic conversations about what it is like to identify as female in this current political and social time in history.