New GSA President Gwen Byrom on how challenging gender stereotypes has helped her family
Gwen Byrom, GSA President 2018 and Head of Loughborough High School, on how challenging gender stereotypes has helped her and her husband manage work and raise five children – Sunday Times, 31 December 2017 :
Byrom, who will take over as president of the GSA tomorrow and is also headmistress of Loughborough High School, said she tells girls at her school they can “have it all” — a career and a family — by challenging gender stereotypes, including the idea that the family breadwinner must be the man.
Her husband, Andy, also a qualified teacher, has looked after their brood for 12 years while she has worked full-time.
“My husband loves being at home with the kids,” she said. “It is not a stereotypical male role but one he very much enjoys.”
Byrom, who has an 1100cc Moto Guzzi motorbike, said girls must talk to their partners about how they are going to balance work and home life in the future. “It is a chat any reasonable couple would want to have,” she said. “The whole thing about gender equality [is] it is not just about women. It is about men too, about men feeling straitjacketed with their own gender stereotypes of being the strong man and the breadwinner.”
“They should be given the chance to say they want to play a bigger role at home in the same way women are offered leadership opportunities at work.”
Byrom, who used to work in biochemical research, wants girls to challenge gender stereotypes wherever they occur. She said she is a conscious role model for pupils at her school and the GSA, which represents some of the country’s leading private girls’ schools, where pupils are encouraged to pursue high-flying careers.
She said: “I have three boys and two girls, aged 19, 16, twins aged 14 and a 2½-year-old. My husband stays at home and looks after them, I go to work . . . Girls see me with my pack of kids trailing around. It shows them you can have a family and a career.
“The message is you can have it all to a degree, but there are compromises. The compromise we made was that I would be the major breadwinner and my husband would stay at home and look after the children. Girls have that choice and I encourage them to talk to their partners about that balance. I think what is lovely nowadays is that there are options.”