Jessy McCabe internet article 9th Sep 2015

Four years ago, a seventeen year old asked the question “why is every composer in my music syllabus a man?”. This question inspired her to create a campaign that was featured in six national newspapers, on the radio and changed the content of the Edexcel A-Level Music syllabus.

Her name is Jessy Mccabe and her social action journey started when she was a participant of Fearless Futures, a multi-week equality and leadership schools programme. Jessy’s facilitator used critical questioning to support her to unpack the invisible and normalised messages that harm women and create change.

Today she continues to ask lots of questions, particularly surrounding issues of educational inequality and access to higher education, having been President of Oxford First-Gen, a society at the University of Oxford for students among the first generation in their family to go to university. We asked her what was most empowering about her social action experience and how can other schools/organisations embed this in their programmes.

Here is what she told us:


“Having someone believe in all you can be and tell you that your views matter is so powerful.  The idea of being on national television was terrifying, my facilitator was always supporting me to past discomfort and develop a resistance growth mindset.

Question and then question again! I first thought the question I asked was important as the syllabus should reflect the voices of people who are experiencing the curriculum. Fearless futures taught me to think about this not only from my perspective but from different women from different backgrounds. I also learned that history is a narrative from one view, and that there are many different versions of history. To truly participate in inclusive social action, I must be aware of my privilege and understand how others who are different from me experience the world.

Even if you don’t succeed, it does not devalue the process. I honestly expected nothing more than a few people on my Facebook page to sign my petition. There was a sizeable chance that my campaign wouldn’t change the curriculum. Through this process I have also learned that it is okay to fail, and it is okay to stand up for what you believe, engaging in discussion with people who disagree as part of a continual process of developing your ideas. In the process I gained so many skills that I still use today in all walks of life, particularly around confidence and critical thinking.”



International Women’s Day is important because it highlights the untold histories of incredible women. It mobilises a call for all of us to act, not just this Friday 8th March 2019, but across the other 364 days of the year too. These efforts should serve to improve and respect all of the inequalities that different women face. So, this International Women’s day we leave you a with a question – how can your organisation or school better serve all women?

You can read more about Jessy’s incredible story here.