HISTORY OF ISGP
In the spring of 1997, 31 women from numerous Independent Schools gathered in Ukiah, California to consider where, how, and why the Women's Movement had stalled and how it was affecting equity for girls and women in Independent Schools. Many of us felt that although women had made some progress in the 1960's through the 1980's, the 1990's seemed to be a decade of one step forward, three steps back. Few women were heads of school, (even girls' schools), pay equity was not even considered a problem, women were not being mentored towards leadership, and in many cases, strong, independent women were being silenced and disregarded. Girls, too, were not being encouraged to pursue androgynous goals, blatant sexism was on the rise on campus, body image issues were affecting the health and well-being of girls, young girls were being pressured to perform sexual acts on boys that brought the girls little satisfaction, and girls voices were not being heard in classrooms.
The women who met in Ukiah were extremely concerned about how this was affecting the self-confidence and sense of competence of girls and women. Our schools were not preparing young women for leadership, and instead had moved back to modeling deference to male leadership, and less lofty goals for young women. The emotion in the room for the three days of meetings ranged from fear and anger to despair, to hope, and a desire for action. In our first gathering, we committed to a number of goals for the next five years:
1- We would develop a survey of attitudes and perceptions about equity issues in our schools, and hired a PhD Statistician to help us develop and administer the survey, and interpret the survey results. Athough the survey would gather data from both boys and girls, and men and women, our work would focus primarily on girls and women. The first, pilot survey was administered in 1999, and the sixth survey was administered in 2014. Click here for additional information.
2- We would hold a conference for girls and women every other year and ask schools to bring teams of girls and women to immerse themselves in issues pertaining to women. The first ISGP Girls and Womens Conference was held at The Hotchkiss School in 2004, and has flourished in each even year since. Click here for additional information.
3- We would meet annually as a group to discuss current issues in our schools, to support and help each other in addressing areas of inequity, to educate ourselves about all issues pertinent to girls and women in the world, and to focus on training young women to be strong, confident, competent, caring, concerned citizens. Our annual meeting is held every February or April and the location alternates between the east and west coasts. Click here for additional information.
Our goal from the beginning was to have this group become a force in our schools, helping to foster change, gain equity for girls and women, and make a difference in the lives of girls and women. Through hard work, strong collaboration, dedication, and women who care passionately about these issues and each other, we have made a difference! We have already achieved many of our original goals many times over, and we create new goals each time we meet. Women from any independent school are welcome to join us at any of our events and in our work.
The Independent School Gender Project is recognized as a non-profit organization since 2014, and continues to empower independent school communities to reach gender equity and equality.