Speakers for schools, and caring

I do the occasional gig for Speakers for Schools.  This admirable organisation was started by Robert Peston. He kept being invited by private schools to give talks to their students, and felt that students in state schools should also have access to the kinds of insights that he and other public figures bring.  So SfS has built up a panel of people willing to go and talk at state schools, on whatever issues might help to enlarge students’  perspectives on life.

I do not, of course, generate quite the buzz that I’m sure RP does, but I’ve enjoyed talking about the Paula Principle in a range of schools over the last couple of years.  I can’t offer much in the way of careers advice, but it raises issues of gender equality, at work and in education, and hopefully leaves some kind of trace.

It also gives me some useful insights.  Earlier this week I spoke at Chew Valley school, near Bristol, to about 100 6th formers.I went through the five PP factors – discrimination, caring responsibilities, confidence, vertical networks and positive choice – and asked them to think about which ones they felt were most important.  One student came up afterwards and made a point whose salience only really struck me after I’d left.  Might it be the case, she asked, that PP factor 2 – caring responsibilities – extended to the workplace, where women tend to feel more responsible for keeping everyone happy?

When I thought about it, this links directly with the issues of teamwork and collective intelligence which I’ve written about before.  Women are more likely to worry about making the group function smoothly –  and this could be seen as an extension of the way caring responsibilities are distributed.  I actually think it’s pushing it too far to include this explicitly  in PP factor 2.  It would obscure the particular issues which collective intelligence brings up, and complicate still further the challenge of tackling how we deal with childcare and eldercare, but her point that there are strong overlaps between these two is a good one, and I was glad to be prompted to turn over the issue.

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