Career, kids? Girls may not be able to "have it all"

LONDON Fri Nov 13, 2009 9:22am EST

Lizzie Antrobus (L) and Maral Rouhani react after receiving their A-level exam results in Manchester, northern England, August 14, 2008. REUTERS/Darren Staples

Lizzie Antrobus (L) and Maral Rouhani react after receiving their A-level exam results in Manchester, northern England, August 14, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Darren Staples

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - British schools need to teach teenage girls about the realities behind pursuing a glittering career and having children, a top school head says, arguing that in the end they may not be able to "have it all."

Headmistress Jill Berry, president of the Girls' School Association (GSA), a body representing heads of private fee-paying schools, said most women are unable to "keep all the plates spinning."

Speaking ahead of the GSA's annual conference next week, she said girls should "stop beating themselves up" if they cannot juggle a career with being a wife and mother.

"They will need to realize that there may be times when they might not want to work, or they might want to take a lesser job because their priorities have changed," she told the weekly Times Educational Supplement.

"It is important that they leave school at 18 with their eyes open."

She said that while it is healthy for girls to aim to have "a flash sports car with a baby seat in the back," they need to realize that life is more complicated.

Berry, who is also head of the 10,000 pound ($16,620)-a-year Dame Alice Harpur School in Bedford, north of London, said society in recent years has led girls to believe they can "have it all," which was oversimplifying the pressures of modern life.

"Your priorities shift, but you're not selling out -- you are facing reality and trying to be realistic about what you can achieve and you should stop beating yourself up about it," she said.

However Berry, said girls should still be taught that they can be successful, independent and can compete with men for high-flying jobs.

"When my pupils try to wind me up by saying they plan to marry a rich man to support them, I ask them: 'what if he runs off with the au pair?'"

(Reporting by Stefano Ambrogi; Editing by Steve Addison)

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