Boys will be boys

An online PD presentation recently shared at an IEU’s Women’s Forum focused on why gender stereotyping is detrimental not only to staff, both males and females, but to the wellbeing of students in boys’ schools.

Presenters Barbara Kinnane and Lourdes Ndaira (pictured), both teachers with more than 20 years’ experience, recounted how a grassroots response, begun by female staff in early 2017 at Edmund Rice College Wollongong, addressed the problems experienced by women working in a male dominated environment. What began as Women@ERC quickly transformed to InclusivityMatters@ERC.

The presentation examined how Women@ERC allowed women to freely and anonymously register their concerns. InclusivityMatters@ERC preceded the release in July 2017 of Live Life to the Full by Wayne Tinsey, Executive Director of Edmund Rice Education Australia (EREA).

This policy identified Edmund Rice Colleges as ‘inclusive communities’ where the ‘charter and touchstones’ embrace students, staff and family members as ‘made in the likeness of God’ irrespective of their sexual orientation and asserted their right to be given the opportunity to experience the fullness of life.

InclusivityMatters@ERC recognised the inclusion of LGBTQI+ members of the community as a significant focus of the group. Barbara and Lourdes acknowledged the impetus Live Life to the Full gave to the growth of InclusivityMatters@ERC.

InclusivityMatters@ERC focusing allocated inservice time for workshops on issues identified by the group and presented by them in consultation with the principal and assistant principal.

Lourdes said video and documents were often used to stimulate discussion. Staff were organised in groups with diverse ages,gender and faculty members. Lourdes stressed the importance of transparency and the need for full disclosure, where all results of discussions were shared.

“This was crucial for authentic engagement to occur and in a context where individuals were not the focus,” she said.

During the IEU’s PD presentation, she shared a video simulation of a staff workshop on the topic ‘boys will be boys’. This workshop explored how this phrase not only encouraged inappropriate behaviour, but was insulting to males, suggesting they have no self-control or agency.

During the workshop, other significant points raised for discussion in reference to the character of boys’ schools included:

  • focusing too much on the importance of the father/son relationship at the expense of the mother/son relationship, and
  • the need for affirmative action to address the overwhelming male dominance of Pastoral Care Leadership teams and in the Executive team.

EREA has recently launched a Gender Equality Strategy identifying its commitment to enabling female leaders and revising its recruitment processes to align its policies with gender equality objectives.

Barbara (, who has now retired, and Lourdes ( would be happy to share their knowledge with colleagues at other schools.

Comments from participants

“I think the times we are living in are too precarious for the executive not to listen. Look at what happened to AMP, different but similar.”

“Eye opening and practical.”

“The Australian Human Rights Commission released a major report in March this year on Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces. It includes reference to the role of schools in fostering values of dignity and respect. A useful resource.”

“I hope your work will change the views/behaviour of the males on staff who are not in a good place yet. Well done and thank you.”

“It is interesting that quite a few girls-only schools have too many male role models, whereas we don’t see females as principals in male schools.”