Marisa Porges


This week we celebrate International Women’s Day, observed around the world as a chance to raise awareness of gender disparities and promote women’s rights.

After a groundbreaking few months for American women – when a historic number of women ran for and won seats in U.S. Congress, announced their candidacies for president, won record numbers of Nobel Prizes, Oscars and more – there are no doubt some who are asking “Aren’t we past this?”

Women are gaining ground in countless fields. So why are women still lagging behind?

As the leader of an institution committed to shaping girls into future leaders, I’m excited to see women rising through the ranks, winning prizes and taking a stand more than ever before. As an educator of girls, however, I’m still concerned: Our girls’ voices don’t yet carry the influence of their male peers.

Take, for example, research demonstrating that men speak out more than women at work, interrupting female colleagues 33 percent more often than their male peers — even when the woman is a Supreme Court Justice.

And little boys interrupt three times more than girls, in class and on the playground. Even though, if those same girls are on their own, in a single-sex environment, they speak up as often as boys.

Or consider recent studies showing that, while women are winning more scholarly prizes for scientific research, they are not getting as much respect — or money — for their breakthroughs.

And that, across a wide variety of academic disciplines, women are still much less likely to serve on important conference panels, give talks or be invited to speak about their work.

Women are gaining more seats at the proverbial table but, by and large, don’t have an influential voice once there. What if the problem starts, in part, when we’re young?

Lately, our focus as educators and parents has been nurturing girls to be confident, teaching them to be resilient and encouraging them to be brave. But that misses a critical step. We need to do more to help our girls develop and effectively use their voice.

This starts by identifying gender norms at play in our kids’ daily life.

For example, by talking about pervasive social dynamics that lead boys to speak more than female classmates — and help-ing girls realize when they don’t voice their opinions and understand why they should practice asserting themselves more often.

Being honest with ourselves about this disparity also helps teachers and other adults realize we need to encourage our girls to actively lead — and yes, interrupt — during any class or activity. It also helps counter the pervasive bias that makes us think women and girls talk more than they do.

Parents should also look for ways to help girls practice using their voices.

Home can be the safest space to develop foundational skills that children need later in life, and this applies to girls learning to speak their mind.

When making family decisions, ask your daughter for input. Even if something seems minor or you know what the outcome will be — from what movie you’ll watch together to what curfew will be — have her argue for what she wants.

The outcome doesn’t matter as much as the chance to build confidence and comfort with speaking up.

Consider the same thing in public. When you’re at a restaurant, in an amusement park or on a trip, ask your daughter to be the family spokesperson.

Find moments when she can advocate for not just herself but also for others.

Small things make a big difference. Practicing assertive communication skills early builds critical muscle memory, making it more natural for girls to use their voices effectively later in life.

Above all, remind any young girl in your life that her voice matters –– that you value her speaking her mind.

Every day, we teach the girls at my school to demand seats at the table. We must also ensure that they know how to speak up when they’re there. The first step is to teach every young woman to use her voice, loudly and effectively.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, let’s start by encouraging our girls to not just raise their hand in class but to interrupt, too.

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Marisa Porges is head of school at The Baldwin School, an independent pre-K through grade 12 all-girls school in Bryn Mawr, Pa. She wrote this for the Philadelphia Inquirer.


(11) comments


The differences pointed out between boys and girls is because there are differences between boys and girls. I don’t want to see them acting the same,. Our society Is trying to neuter the males as it is, if you act like a boy, there’s something wrong with you. We think, act, and react differently than women/girls. ALTHOUGH, I know many women who have no problem speaking up and out, and sticking up for their points in no uncertain terms. I think everyone will be ok, no crisis here.


Now there is something you have said that I believe, That you know a lot of women who have no problem speaking out. Any woman who spends time with you and has to listen to what comes out of your mouth must spend a lot of time speaking out.


I suppose you are so over bearing and opinionated, women just clam up around you. Don’t be that way, women are intelligent and interesting


oh climate you forgot to add only white women are intelligent and interesting. And for you, those types that you find interesting are the ones falling off bar stools dead drunk. They will listen to you real well!


You correct.

My experience doesnt bear out that women speak up less then men. However, they do communicate differently, probably more nuanced, with less bullying, bravado, and are better team builders. In short, women are often more effective communicators and better workers.

Ms Porges makes a living promoting victims and victimhood. Women should walk away from such self defeating cynicism.


I agree young women (girls?) should be encouraged to speak up. Have her argue for what she wants? Yeah, that has never been a problem in our house.

At a restaurant or elsewhere ask your daughter to be the family spokesperson. This is a terrific idea. I think it's a great idea to use this strategy to make any young person more confident. So many kids stare at the ground, speak softly, stammer. What a great exercise!

Teach every young woman to use her voice effectively? Always... Loudly? Not always... Encouraging girls to raise their hand in class. Super! Interrupting? Not so much.

There is a HUGE difference between being assertive, confident and feeling free to share an opinion and being argumentative, loud and rude. It seems to me this stuff is already happening too much. Teaching young people to remember respect and courtesy seems like a better strategy.


Agree whole heartedly with your last statements.


great comments Holmen. I saw today an example of discrimination of women in the US soccer team. They are consistently paid much less than the male US soccer team, even though they have been much more successful on the field of play. They are now suing the Soccer association for equal pay, as I think they should. We still have work to do on women's equality in many fields. Most times it is best to be courteous, and mind your manners, but there are times in life when you need to take it to the next level. Speak you mind loudly, with force, with intelligence, and with the truth! Want a great example, look at this short video and watch a little Black Lady who is a state senator take on big special interests. She stood her ground! https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/03/09/gop-lawmaker-tried-silence-black-senator-gun-law-debate-she-stood-her-ground-won/?utm_term=.b227c22a8eb5
We certainly could use a lot more like her!

Rick Czeczok

If they start bringing in money from fan support then they should be paid the same. But if they don't have the funds, how do they pay for the higher wages? This is something title 9 was supposed to take care of over time in collages, but fans don't go to the games, and they don't have the support, so penalize someone else. Is that what you are calling fair? I am all for girls and boys having sports, don't get me wrong. The problem I have, is that the funding pulls all the money off of the boys programs, that was supposed to stop after time under title 9, but never did. So to equalize it boys programs were shut down and eliminated so that girls could play sports. Again no problem but they should be self supported. I know this is going to be unpopular, but I believe everyone should speak out, not just one entity of society. Ever heard the saying pay to play.


well ricky boy your ramblings are a bit more coherent this time, but not by much. I was talking about the US soccer teams. They are not college teams, they are not bound by title 9. Its about mens and women teams that represent the US us in soccer matches throughout the world. Soccer is not a big sport here like in other countries. but they do get sponsorship from companies and raise money in other ways. The women are just wanting an equal and fair shake. I see nothing wrong with that. You want to talk about college sports, that is a different matter for a different time.


Who wrote this for you? It must have been someone who went to collage [sic].

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