ISM Students and Teachers Respond to ‘Where are Female Leaders?’

Article by Alexis Lopez

A few days ago, ISM’s BTV released a video with the intent of addressing the gender imbalance in school councils. While the sincere and well thought-out responses of current female student council members resonated positively with many, it was some of the views expressed in the video and in the comments below the video that left viewers truly stunned. These views were shared by the High School community, who expressed their reactions and sentiments the day after the video was released.

In the video, male and female students were interviewed regarding their opinion on this gender imbalance. The male students interviewed responded by saying that men tend to make better leaders due to their “masculinity and testosterone, which helps them to get the job done,” and be more “assertive, confident, and stand on an issue without switching sides.” As more people watched the video, students and teachers alike could not help but notice the sexist comments left by other viewers on the Youtube site. The moderators of the Bamboo Telegraph channel were quick to disable the comments, but screenshots passed around the next day revealed the upsetting and derogatory nature of many of these remarks.

TOK teacher Mr. Cook expressed, “The claim that men make better leaders because they’re more confident is pseudoscience. [This belief] is more culturally engendered rather than biological.” He mentions that “even so, confidence is not the best quality for a leader,” citing Donald Trump as “grotesquely confident,” albeit “not an entirely effective leader.”

Literature teacher Ms. Thompson, was upset that such attitudes as the ones expressed in the video were present at ISM. She voiced her opinion saying, “I was angry that there were people in our community that would have the audacity and the lack of thought to say those kinds of things.” She wanted to remind students and faculty, “Our community is full of strong, brilliant women. If we’re not going to support each other, who will? We are standing on the shoulders of giants, and these giants are both men and women.”

Likewise, Junior Harini R. said, “Hearing that video and listening to those opinions being publicly shared by people in our grade, truly aggravated me. Girls are born into a world with sexism, and we will continue to encounter it till the day we die. But the one place where we are supposed to feel safe to grow as learners and leaders is school, but those comments took away the safety we felt here [at ISM] and replaced it with confusion, anger, and intense emotions I didn’t know how to deal with.”

Incoming BTV Co-Producer Rocio T. was thrilled with the community-wide impact that the video has created and acknowledged the “need to develop arguments from both sides.” Additionally, she expressed, “I look forward to creating more content like this video that instigates meaningful and community-changing conversations.” CAS Coordinator, Mr. Woods held similar beliefs, calling the decision to publish the video a “bold, brave, and important move,” as he feels that talking about these gender-related issues “ is an important conversation for students to have.”

Current ISSBA Secretary Sam M. echoed this sentiment remarking, “I think it’s time we spoke about this issue. It’s without doubt been questionable since last year’s election, and I am glad opinions like the ones in the video are shown.” Sam also voiced his opinion regarding whether these sexist views were widespread in the HS community saying, “I cannot agree [with the stereotype] that all men are anti-feminist or stubborn. Many of the best male leaders of this school recognize that female leadership is equally as powerful.”

Being an international school, ISM teaches its students to respect and uphold the dignity of each student regardless of their race or gender, as well as to value and celebrate our diversity. This can be achieved through the combined efforts of both male and female students to lift each other up, working together to support and empower each member of the community.