Nicole Christensen is the principal at Monte Sant’Angelo Mercy College in North Sydney. One of her students, Caitlin Hardy, interviews her about what it means to be a female leader in education.
What were you doing before you became principal?
I’ve always been very interested in education, but I didn’t start in the education sector. To me, it has always been about justice. I originally looked into being a police prosecutor but I was told as a woman, I wasn’t tall enough. It then motivated me to think, where can I make a difference? What kind of world would I like to see? It led me to teaching in girl’s education because that’s where I see the possibility to make progress.
How did you become principal?
I always knew I wanted to become principal. The previous principal gave me many opportunities to grow but it’s not an easy thing to achieve. Unfortunately, our previous principal had a stroke and I became acting principal. I learnt a lot so that I felt confident I could then lead the school and I applied to become principal. I thought if it’s meant to be it’ll be, and then I was appointed!
Every day I still think it’s the best job in the world and I’m so incredibly grateful and inspired to work with young women.
What’s the best part about being a principal?
Seeing young women growing, learning and evolving. The greatest gift that any parents can give is their daughter. We know if we educate a woman we educate a generation.
The best part is working with the young women and staff to enable change. I honestly think opportunities for women are changing. The best time to be a woman is right now because I think both men and women are working together to change their opportunities.
What are some challenges you have faced?
I think it’s hard when there are very few CEOs that are women. I suppose I see every challenge as an opportunity. The challenges that we face turn into these opportunities to shatter the glass ceilings and open doors and create conversations.
Among my mentors would be a great parish priest who has been so supportive since my first year of teaching and even married my husband and me. He has been a great spiritual guide in my life.
How important to you is it that there are more women leaders in today’s society?
It’s vital because we are equals and it’s a human right, not an issue, but a right that we are all equal. We need women in these positions, and younger girls and boys seeing that. If we can create this opportunity for female leaders it will strengthen our society and create a more just world for all.
Do you believe the Church encourages women into leadership positions?
I could not have been more inspired than I have by the women who have led the congregations like the Sisters of Mercy. These are extraordinary women who have been leading society and making incredible inroads into human rights. To me that is the Church.
There are many other people like the Pope who are working to create future opportunities for women. I am hopeful in the future that there will be more inclusivity. But the people are the church and we will continue to support and be supported by the Church. As a leader, the Church has been so unbelievably supportive of my journey and its continuation.
Caitlin Hardy is a member of young writers’ community.
View the reflection questions and activities for 'Helping girls build a more inclusive future’ here