Shweta Sastri is the Managing Director of Canadian International School, Bangalore (CIS) – a Sterling Developers group venture. Shweta joined CIS in 2006 to further accelerate academic and fiscal performance, leading to significant infrastructural expansion and multiple awards, including CIS being ranked amongst the top 3 international schools in the country. Shweta primarily focuses on visioning and performance across all aspects of the school. Her expertise lies in education management, finance, strategy, leadership, and governance.
It’s hard to believe that in 2021, we are still discussing how women today continue to struggle against inequality on a global scale. To think that as we are about to celebrate International Women’s Day, 2021, millions of girl children are still not allowed to attend school, thousands of young women are forced into marriage or labor at an early age, and the list goes on.
“Choose to Challenge”, this year’s theme for International Women’s Day, is a call to action for all global citizens to call out gender bias and continue to move toward a world where gender parity is real. This call to action needs to be ongoing and we can each do our own part to support this important cause and endeavor. Whether it is ensuring that girl students are able to stay in school or it is supporting your fellow female colleagues to rise above the gender stereotypes within your organization or community.
Education is a means to an end when it comes to helping increase gender parity and decrease gender biases. Motivating students of all genders to think about career paths that meet their own personal goals rather than community stereotypes is incredibly important. Creating and fostering programs of study that encourage girls to step into Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math beyond the typical city limits will further this effort. Making STEM education available in rural schools and increasing the connectivity and digital access to all students and women in India, will help us as a country rise to be the truly powerhouse of knowledge we aim to achieve.
This past year has shown us how wide the digital divide is in India. The global pandemic created a crisis in education for girls living in India who didn’t have access to a remote education. According to UNESCO, the lockdown has impacted 158 million girl students and their ability to access education since March 2020. This is apparent across states and in rural communities where education for girls is of a lower priority for many families, the differences in access between boys and girls can be even larger.
As a female leader in education, I know how important it is that we serve as role models for all of the girls and young women around us. Modelling confidence and achievement is not enough. We need to step beyond our normal lives and challenge ourselves and those around us to create a world of inclusivity and gender parity. We as women also need to support each other in a mutual effort to help each other reach our individual goals both personally and professionally as well as reach our collective goals as a gender. We as mothers, must teach our sons how important it is to respect women be it their friends, teachers, colleagues, bosses or even a waitress at a restaurant. For our daughters, we need to remember that we model independence and resilience on a daily basis. Whether we go to an office job, or choose to be a stay-at-home mom, we can communicate that this was a conscious choice and not the product of societal expectations.
As women, we are sometimes our own worst enemies. We tend to second guess ourselves, or better yet, give in to the social pressures of our female peers. Instead of fighting for our own individual success, if we can collectively challenge and support each other, we will make a larger impact as a whole. It is our duty to strive for this for the coming generation of girls and women, and generations to come.