08 March, 2023

Breaking Barriers, Building a Better Future: Celebrating International Women's Day

Breaking Barriers, Building a Better Future: Celebrating International Women's Day - Breaking Barriers Building a Better Future Celebrating International Womens Day
Breaking Barriers, Building a Better Future: Celebrating International Women's Day

International Women's Day is celebrated on 8th March every year to acknowledge the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women around the world. It is also a day to raise awareness about gender equality and women's rights.


To mark this occasion, we sat down with two of our female leaders, Tamara Bell (Head of Campus, Gharaffa), and Samah Shaheen (Admissions Manager) to discuss and highlight their achievements, challenges, and the importance of empowering women.


Tamara Bell, Head of Campus – Gharaffa


  1. How do you ensure that the voices of women are heard and valued within your campus community?


    Women are well represented in leadership roles at Compass International School Doha.  The three campuses all are led by female Heads. At Gharaffa, 7 out of 12 members of our senior leadership team are female and our Friends of Compass parent committee is also made up of a large number of wonderful mothers.  This means that the perspectives, opinions, ideas and feedback from our female school community members is a large and critical component of what drives our school forward.


  2. What advice would you give to young women who are interested in pursuing leadership roles?


    Be true to yourself and trust your own judgement.  Don’t compare yourself to others, be proud of who you are and what you can do. Work hard and always treat others with respect and kindness and know that you deserve the same in return.


  3. In your opinion, what is the most important message to share on International Women's Day, and how can we all work towards creating a more gender-equal world?


    Know your worth!  Ensure you are a positive female role model so that our young girls have something to look up to. Challenge stereotypes and celebrate and support other women.


  4. What advice would you give to your younger self?


    Don’t be swayed by others’ opinions of you and surround yourself with people who will support and guide you in a positive way. Nothing will be given to you – put in the hard work and it will pay off. 


  5. What do you believe needs to be done to create more opportunities for women to lead and succeed in traditionally male-dominated fields, such as education?


    Personally, I feel the effort needs to be two-fold.  Firstly, we need women to back themselves, be proud of the strengths, knowledge and skills they can bring to the table and have the confidence to put themselves forward for leadership roles. Too often I hear talented, capable females doubt their ability to compete with men or others, often believing that they are “not good enough” or that they have to be perfect at everything before they deem that they are ready or capable to step up.  We need to push past this doubt and, to quote my favourite saying, know your worth!  If you have put in the hard work and have the necessary skills, experience, and qualifications then back yourself and go for those opportunities when they arise. 


    Secondly, we need men in key leadership roles to understand and value what women bring to leadership. They need to value it enough to not just advocate for gender equality but to make space and ensure that women are equally represented at ‘the table’. Generally, there is a much high proportion of female to male staff working in the field of primary school education and yet I cannot tell you how many times I have sat at board tables or in leadership conferences and the majority of the key leaders in the room are male.  I would love to see, at least, an equal representation of women, as well as those from diverse backgrounds or minority groups, better represented in key leadership positions across educational organisations and beyond.


  6. What do you believe are the unique challenges faced by women in leadership positions, and how have you overcome these challenges in your career?


I believe women are put in a position where we have to work extremely hard to break down stereotypes that are associated with being female. Gender stereotypes are very common and are pushed to the public via social, educational and recreational socialisation which promote gender prejudice and discrimination. Some of the challenges I have personally faced in the past have been being questioned about whether I am capable of being able to work in such a challenging role given that I am a mother to 3 children, being told that because I am female I am not capable of being strict enough. I became a school deputy head at age 27 and a school principal at age 35 and so I was often the only female at the leadership table. On top of that, I was almost always the only person of indigenous race, being Måori, and in my early leadership years, I was often the youngest.  I learned through many, many challenging meetings that I needed to be strong in my conviction that I should not and do not need to change myself to be what others felt I should be. I was appointed to every job I have ever had because I earned it and while I may not make decisions others may make, or lead in a way others would prefer, I am doing the best I can do for my students and the school community that I serve.  Women in leadership positions face this every day and sometimes the criticism can harden your heart, but I like to think that my biggest strength is my heart and that allows me to do what is right for the school community. This is why having strong female role models in leadership is so important, as it is the trailblazers that go before you that allow the next generation of girls to believe in themselves and aspire to be leaders in the future.