Globally, the percentage of women in leadership roles is declining. According to Catalyst in 2018, women hold only 24% of senior leadership roles. In the United States, only 5% of Fortune 500 CEO roles are occupied by women. And yet, a Harvard Business Review study examining gender in leadership discerns that women “are rated higher in fully 12 of the 16 competencies that go into outstanding leadership.” Holderness School looks at leadership differently. This year, we have two incoming female leaders: Board Chair Nell Reynolds P ‘18, ‘20, ‘22 and School President Abby Vieira ‘20.
Holderness selects leaders by what they do. Aspiring student leaders learn about leadership via in an ongoing leadership laboratory -- the job program. There is no campaigning for roles. The entire school votes (students and adults) on every rising tenth and eleventh grader to determine the student leaders for the next year. Voting is a rating system on four leadership values: fairness, initiative, dependability, and empathy.
This voting system has been in place since 1951 and results in selfless and remarkable leaders. Often, the leaders chosen by this process are female. Head of School Phil Peck says that “nearly half of the presidents and vice presidents chosen during my tenure as head of school have been female and this is not the case with many other co-educational boarding schools because students, often extroverted boys, run for the top leadership positions. ” For this next academic year, Holderness elected Macy Arnsenault ‘20, Emilija Jakumaite‘20, and Tim Manning ‘20 as the top leaders for the school along with Abby.
The board chair is not selected in the same election fashion but is selected by what they do and the values they hold. Holderness focuses on other-centeredness. Typically the board chair emerges by their demonstrated stewardship for the school, their deep thoughtfulness, and a less formalized reckoning with the values of fairness, initiative, dependability, and empathy.
Holderness is honored to have our guiding leaders for the next year be females. Each brings something unique to their roles but they also represent the best of Holderness.
Abby Vieira ‘20 came to Holderness in the ninth grade from Massachusetts. She will be the first to tell you that she loves to ski. She has served on several admission panels and often relates that the reason she chose Holderness was the opportunity to excel in both academics and athletics. In speaking about Holderness, Abby states “One of the things that I love about Holderness is the sense of family and acknowledgment. It feels good when someone you haven’t had the chance to meet says hello to you, just to be friendly. Many schools don’t have the emphasis on friendliness and community...I feel like that’s what sets Holderness apart from other schools, big and small.” At the end of the academic year, the rising student leaders have various leadership training sessions. Head of School Phil Peck has been impressed with the energy and commitment of these leaders and he chuckles as he proudly shares that Abby has already brought forth several proposals for next year. “We are fortunate to have such leaders and it is our process that chooses so well!”
Nell Reynolds P ‘18, ‘20, ‘22 has been on the Board of Trustees since 2016. She brings a solid parent perspective but she is also an educator and coach and knows her way around independent schools. As Phil Peck states “Nell has substantively contributed to every conversation on the board-level because of her broad educational experiences.” Nell has also served as a trustee of Fay School and has been a welcome volunteer for both Fay’s and Holderness’ Parent Associations. Nell is a graduate from Choate Rosemary Hall and Dartmouth College where she majored in English. She has a Masters in English Education from SUNY Cortland. She worked for many years as a high school English teacher and has coached various levels of field hockey and lacrosse having played both those sports (and hockey) in high school and college. She tells us that “Holderness is a school that can bring out the best in students. My three children are very different and yet the school has been able to meet them at their needs and challenge them in important ways. I feel fortunate to be working with Phil and the Board to help steward Holderness in this time of altering demographics and prospective students’ quest for personalized and rewarding experiences while maintaining the cultural posture that is an emblem for Holderness’ core values.”
We salute our new leaders for the upcoming academic year and we are pleased that we are bucking the current downward trend of women in leadership! Onward!