Over the past sixteen months I have had the pleasure of meeting with many Lincoln alumnae. What a terrific window into the spirit of this school! The women who have graduated from Lincoln are smart, opinionated and above all, confident.
Confidence has been on my mind a lot lately. As we know, there is no confidence gene. So, how does one become confident? I recently read a book called The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.
Kay and Shipman provide a thoughtful and sharp analysis of the continuing confidence gap between men and women in our country and in our world; they pull from the latest brain research as well as from interviews with successful and competent women. What they discovered is that “confidence is only part science…the other part is art… With diligent effort, we can all choose to expand our confidence. But we will get there only if we stop trying to be perfect and start being prepared to fail.”
Did I read this because I knew I was going to be the 16th Head of Lincoln School? Yes. Did I read this because I am a woman? Absolutely. What I learned from this book is not revolutionary. Instead, it provides clear and unsettling examples of why girls and women continue to doubt their self-worth. It also provides inspiring examples of strong, healthy and competent women flourishing in their respective careers. What makes some women confident and others not? I cannot answer that question in one summer letter, but I can confidently say (pun intended) that strong all-girls schools, like Lincoln, are needed now more than ever.
My meetings with Lincoln alumnae, students, parents and faculty affirm the urgent need for girls and young women to have the space to test their ideas, their opinions and their differences in an environment that does not label them too early, discourage them from stepping outside their comfort zones or confine them to one way of looking and being. Lincoln girls are encouraged to be bold, which means making mistakes and as Kay and Shipman emphasize, not being held hostage to perfectionism.
I have loved being a teacher and administrator in co-educational institutions, but I can say with certainty that girls in co-ed schools, unintentionally and sometimes intentionally, get overlooked. This is not surprising given the fact that we live in a co-ed world where women in our country are still paid 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. And where there is a dearth of women in the STEAM disciplines.
We have all made a choice to be at Lincoln, a choice to live and learn in an environment that instills confidence in girls. Our responsibility is to make sure that first and foremost, the girls and young women at Lincoln feel safe to challenge ideas, to be bold with their questions and to plumb the depths of their confidence.