The Female Faces of Leadership

The Female Faces of Leadership

When Head of School Coreen Hester was appointed Head of School in 2007, she, along with other heads of international schools, attended a conference for their respective job. Out of the 54 in attendance, only four were women. Only heads of school were allowed to attend the conference, yet other men still posed Hester with the question: “What is your job?”

For Hester, despite the speculation from some on her role as a female Head of School, she is not phased. “It has been hard but it has been the best job in the world. And I kind of love that I am a woman in a job that most people think would go to a man,” she said.

Former President of Student Council Ariadne Letrou-Papamarkakis (’17) believes having female leaders at our school is important to break down the stereotypes of what a leader should be or should look like. “In order to change that perception you have to start at the root when you are very young and create role models for students that are both male and female.”

Agreeing with Letrou-Papamarkakis, Hester believes it is important to equally represent all genders in leadership roles. Although more frequent with girls, Hester cites an incident in Iceland where male leadership was among the minority. After 40 years of consistently having female Presidents, Icelandic boys were under the impression that they could not aspire to become the President.

Letrou-Papamarkakis was the only female representative in her Grade 9 class. “For me that was never something that was a setback because I was so determined to share my view and represent the girls in my class because the council itself was male dominated. So that kind of spurred me to join student council.”   

Within the school, Hester has prioritized ensuring there are leaders of both genders throughout all three divisions. However, outside of ASL, she believes females are among the minority of leaders. “Now the truth of the matter is that we have had a preponderance of male leaders, so it is very important for girls to see female leadership role models,” she said. “I do believe that women need advocacy to have more leadership roles, but in the end it is also fine to have balance.”

Letrou-Papamarkakis draws the analogy of female leaders experience a similar stigma as female scientists. “I always felt like there has been a stigma for [female] scientists. And being a female you’re the fork in the knife drawer. As in you don’t really fit in and there already is, before go you into science [professions], a preconception that you’ll fail,”Letrou-Papamarkakis said.

When Letrou-Papamarkakis ran for Student Council President she felt like she experienced criticism for her gender. “I felt like a lot of comments [from students] were targeted towards my gender, rather than my skills and qualities for being president. A lot of them ranged from ‘If you’re a girl, then you’re a party planner’ to ‘We’ve had only girl presidents in the past and that’s why nothing is being done,’” Letrou-Papamarkakis said. “And for me attending a school which prides itself on social progress, I was taken aback when I heard those comments.”


With the current political situation in the United States, Eliot Konzal (’17) fears the lack of female leadership and advocacy within the presidential cabinet. “[President Donald Trump] has created an atmosphere that challenges women as not being able to do things, just how he says things like, ‘women should dress like women’ and all of his comments on how we should be,” she said.

In response to Trump’s presidency, Konzal, along with thousands of other women, marched in Washington DC. At the cumulation of the march, Konzal and others continued to walk towards the White House and past the Treasury building. “ We were chanting ‘we will not go away, we will come to your first day’ and it was echoing off of the Treasury building and you could see the White House behind it,” she said. “It was such a powerful message and all of those voices, it was really incredible.”

The march reaffirmed for Konzal that advocacy is the most effective way to promote change. I think it is scary to think that it seems like we are going backwards instead of working forwards to everyone being equal and everyone having peace,” she said. “I think that we should make our voices heard…Not only complaining about it, but making sure people hear you in an effective way.”

After attending the Women’s March in London, Sam Holzman (’19) agrees with Konzal on the importance of advocating for your beliefs. “I think that it is very important to [advocate] because we live in a democracy and that’s what it is designed for people who do or do not agree with what’s going on,” he said.

However Holzman has noticed an undefined area when it comes to women’s rights and feminism. Holzman believes some boys can be mistaken on the definition of a feminist, which he defines as, “Anybody that wants equality for every single person.” “That’s where I see issues, in fact here, because a lot of boys make jokes out of feminism, thinking it’s one thing that it’s not. They think it’s wanting women to be above men in society and they make it into joke,” he said.

Faculty Adviser of the Gender Equity Club Mark Mazzenga sees similar concerns to Konzal’s, especially regarding Trump’s language and rhetoric. “I think some people believe that a Trump presidency threatens the progress that women have made and are continuing to attempt to make, in terms of receiving equal wage and truthfully just respect,” he said. “Some of the rhetoric that he’s used that center specifically on women has been fairly inflammatory, and so with a Trump presidency there is the fear that… [his comments] have a ripple effect, and it gives permission to others to behave similarly.”

Yet with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, Mazzenga recognizes evolving female leadership in politics. However, this does not equate for the inequalities women face in both the U.K. and U.S.. “We have seen women occupy very powerful offices in this country, but that is not the end all and be all,” he said. “That would be like saying we have had a black president therefore we live in a non-racist society.”

In order to achieve equality, Hester agrees with Konzal that advocacy is the strongest path to change.“Women need to use their voice,” she said. “People have got to say something and do something, write letters, make phone calls, if they are upset about what is happening.”

Written by Online/Photo Editor Stephanie Brendsel and Lead Features Editor Michaela Towfighi

Staff Writer Phaedra Letrou-Papamarkakis contributed to reporting