On March 8th, our school hosted International Women’s Day. The event was organized by three 12th graders: Adrienne Biskaduros, Vivien Camenzind and Elena Lustenberger. Along with musical performances from students, and a tulip and baked good sale, three women came to speak about their experiences and their successes in male-dominated careers. The three speakers were Dr. Emily Grossman, Emma Pooley and Eleanor “Tabi” Haller-Jordan. While all three speakers offered intriguing insight into their professions, Dr. Emily Grossman was arguably the favorite. She spoke about the obstacles she had faced in pursuing a science career and the abuse she had received surrounding her defense of scientists being able to cry. An 11th grader at ZIS described her talk as being “very personal” and the “best thing [she’d] seen in a long time.”
Although many students had the opportunity to go to Women’s Day, the event was during regular class time, leaving it in the hands of teachers to decide if they should take their students or not. Some students were able to see multiple speakers, while some, like myself, were not able to go at all. When a student in one of my classes that day asked to go, the teacher responded that it didn’t fit into our curriculum and “that it would be like trying to fit a square into a circle.”
While I fully understand that the IB and ZIS curriculum is vast and requires teachers to stay on a strict schedule, I believe that the benefits of going to the Women’s Day program would have outweighed the costs. ZIS’s motto is “learn, care, challenge, lead” and I don’t think the learning pillar just refers to learning inside a rigid syllabus. Perhaps that teacher that day thought we were already too far behind schedule and couldn’t risk losing another class; however, if every teacher had acted in this manner, no one would have showed up to Women’s Day. This would not have been fair to the student organizers, to Women’s Day itself, or to the students of ZIS, who, if they did not have the chance to see the speakers last week, may never have the chance.
On Monday March 13, we were lucky to have the opportunity to have another speaker at our school, Jamie Andrew, a paraplegic Scottish mountaineer. This time all upper school students had the chance to hear him speak at an assembly. While I am grateful to be able to attend his presentation, I am puzzled as to why a similar assembly wasn’t created for at least one of the speakers of Women’s Day. Does the school not feel empowering women is important and applicable to all students? Does it not think that the hard work of student organizers deserves to be highlighted?
While I have nothing but praise for the Women’s Day event itself, I think the ZIS administration should take a look at its policy surrounding guest speakers. If one speaker is given an assembly, but not another, what is the message being sent? Is ZIS anti-feminist or was Women’s Day simply overlooked? For the sake of teachers, I also hope that some kind of protocol is created about events during class time, so that they are not in the awkward position of having to choose between vital, yet unplanned, learning opportunities and the curriculum they are getting paid to teach.
Written by: Annabel Jones (’18)