Page last updated at 14:19 GMT, Friday, 13 November 2009

Having it all 'not realistic'

jill berry
Girls should aim high, says Mrs Berry

Encouraging girls to "have it all" is not realistic and they need to know their lives will be more complicated than that, a leading head teacher says.

Jill Berry, president of the Girls' Schools Association, says schools would be betraying girls if they did not tell them about challenges they might face.

She told the Times Educational Supplement it was healthy to aspire to have "a sports car with a baby seat".

But schools should prepare young women for the choices they would face.

Mrs Berry, who is the head of Dame Alice Harpur School in Bedford, told BBC News she was not saying girls should not aim high - they should - but they should understand that having a family would bring complications and challenges as well as great riches.

It will be tougher than they think - but that does not mean they should not go for it
JIll Berry, GSA president

"I want them to leave school with their heads held high and their eyes wide open," she said.

"We have very bright, talented girls who will have demanding careers, but I think that if they leave our school thinking they can have it all we would be betraying them.

"Girls should aim high. It will be tougher than they think - but that does not mean they should not go for it."

'Do the right thing'

Mrs Berry said young women needed to realise there might be times when they might not want to work, or they might want to take a lesser job because their priorities had changed.

She hoped they would have the confidence to do what they thought was the right thing without "beating themselves up" or thinking they had "sold out" or failed.

However, she said girls should be taught that they could compete with men professionally and should strive to be independent.

Speaking ahead of the annual conference of the Girls' Schools Association next week, she said women who had reached a high level in their profession were often those who were able to exert the most control over the way they worked.

In this economic climate she realised that many might feel they had to work.

Your comments

I agree with this entirely. I am a 28 year old solicitor working in the City and am finding it very difficult to make choices because my parents taught me that I could have it all: a successful career, a great relationship and many children. Unfortunately, in the world we live in, and in the profession I am in, it is not so....
Karen, London

I work for a leading university in administration and as a female not-married childless member of staff, I find I'm often more disadvantaged at work than other women who are married or have kids. I don't have the same choices or opportunities as they do so I think women not only have more choices now but if you work for the right place you're likely to go further WITH kids than without kids.
Anonymous, Manchester

Common sense at last. Ever since lefty feminists came on the scene girls have been sold the idea that being a mother and homemaker is demeaning, and that they should be out building a career.
Tim, UK

Can you have it all? I'd love to discuss this but being a mother to 4 kids (5 if you include their father) plus a career, I am a bit short of time...
Maggie, Chertsey, Surrey

Having it all invariably means doing it all. If you are prepared to put in the hours and effort then you can achieve all you want. But sometimes, it is more rewarding to have less, and enjoy that little a lot more!
Caroline, Telford, Shropshire

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