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Gloria Steinem spoke to more than 600 students at Branksome Hall and later to a sold-out audience at Convocation Hall.
October 26, 2017
Women Strong: Gloria Steinem
With burning questions in hand, more than 600 Grade 6-12 students filled the Athletics and Wellness Centre gym, eagerly awaiting Gloria Steinem.

The women’s rights activist, lecturer and award-winning author ignited a conversation between herself and the girls as she answered questions about the importance of empowering women today and the role young women play in the future of equality. “I hope I can be helpful to you because of my age, because I’m an optimist, because I remember when it was worse, way worse,” said Ms Steinem during the assembly.

Branksome Hall welcomed the feminist leader to Toronto for two spectacular appearances on October 23, 2017. In the morning, Ms Steinem answered over a dozen student questions on a wide range of topics including politics, gender equity and feminism. “We like to say that you can distinguish a Branksome girl not by the answers she gives but by the questions she asks,” said Astrid Ling, Head Prefect, during her opening remarks. “We are curious and passionate, unafraid to ask difficult and uncomfortable questions.”

Each of Ms Steinem’s responses were powerful and provided inspiring words of wisdom. When asked how young girls can contribute to the feminist movement, Ms Steinem replied, “All over the world, in my experience, young people, no matter how young, say things of great wisdom. They say ‘it’s not fair’ and ‘you’re not the boss of me’ — that is the basis of all social justice movements.”

Ms Steinem added, “We come into the world with enormous amounts of knowledge and wisdom and instinct and understanding, and then experience adds to that, but I hope you have faith in the uniqueness that is inside you.”

That word “unique” then spurred a question about how Ms Steinem finds her confidence to stand up for what she believes in when others might disagree. Her reply was simple yet perfect, “Feel the fear and do it anyway!” She added, “If you have something you care about, just do it!”

Ms Steinem also touched on the benefit of attending an all-girls school, referencing Branksome and her education at Smith College, an all women’s school. “In classrooms, we probably learn to speak up in a way we would not have if we had been in classrooms with both men and women,” said Ms Steinem.

That same sentiment was echoed by Branksome’s Principal, Karen Jurjevich who believes while the school gives its students every opportunity to speak up, it’s the outside community that now needs to listen. “Our mission as a school is to nurture young women with the skills and the drive to shape a better world. The sad truth however, is because of gender, our students still find the playing field they enter as graduates, tilted against them,” said Ms Jurjevich.

That view won’t last for long after Ms Steinem’s honest conversation that left a lasting impact on our students. “Having you with us here today will inspire us, give us direction and guidance as we plan ways to continue the important work of promoting equality for women,” said Ms Ling.

In the evening, Branksome hosted a sold-out public conversation with Ms Steinem at Convocation Hall, moderated by journalist Amanda Lang. Ms Steinem was invited to Branksome Hall as this years’ guest speaker for the annual Rachel Phillips Belash Speaker Series.

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