Under the glass ceiling of Convocation Hall at the University of Toronto, Branksome Hall students sat with their mothers and some fathers and listened to women’s rights advocate Gloria Steinem talk about equality Oct. 23.
It was part of the school’s annual Rachel Phillips Belash speaker series, Women Strong, which has seen Arianna Huffington, June Callwood, Samantha Nutt and Naomi Wolf talk to students about topics related to the development and education of young women.
But the big issue Steinem focused on was how we’ve been ranked as people in political, religious and economic structures.
“We do different things. We have different skills. We are different people but we can do it in a more balanced way,” Steinem told CBC journalist Amanda Lang.
Steinem suggested we celebrate differences instead of going colour-blind or gender-blind.
“There’s something in us that wants to be whole and make connections. It helps us to be together,” Steinem added. “We can understand, in addition to just learning, that we can empathize.”
Throughout the talk, Steinem showed great humour and humility, which Branksome Hall senior Astrid Ling found inspiring — and a call to action.
“We see a lot of division right now within countries around the world,” said Ling, who had introduced Steinem. “Our generation is going to look towards building unity — looking at what makes us similar rather than different.”
Branksome’s prefect motto is “Unity starts with you” and it will be something the students bear in mind, going forward.
“We’re looking to start a movement about unity. Gloria has talked about listening to others, so we’re going to build a real sense of community at our school.”