I am grateful for the changes that have occurred for women in the workforce over the last 40 to 50 years – equal pay and work conditions, opportunities for leadership, paid maternity and paternity leave, job sharing opportunities and more flexible workplaces. However, statistics show that compared to the number of females working in education, there is still a lag in the number of women in educational leadership. How can we ensure we don’t become complacent and permit conditions that inhibit women from considering or taking up educational leadership opportunities?
This was one of the key points made at the Women in Educational Leadership Summit, attended by a number of leaders from LESNW.
The following advice for women leaders is a compilation of points from Dorothy Hoddinot AO, a leading Principal and educator renown in NSW, Professor Rosa Storelli, La Trobe University and Lisa Rodgers, CEO AITSL.
- Take up the opportunities around you, whether formal leadership or teacher leader opportunities;
- Be brave and take risks – women can be too cautious in leadership;
- Own mistakes. Apologise, fix them and learn from them;
- Join professional associations, study and/or participate in extra-curricular opportunities;
- Take responsibility for decisions. Don’t avoid the hard decision;
- Establish yourself on your own terms. You don’t have to be like a male leader in your approach;
- Recognise that it can be lonely in leadership, so gather a “personal Board of Directors” (support team) around you;
- Know yourself so you can be strong in the face of criticism. Be aware of any tendency to please everyone or not offend people;
- Be confident that you are, or will be, good at what you do
To encourage women to apply for leadership positions in our schools we can:
- Identify aspiring young women. Women will benefit from encouragement and development, especially given research shows some reluctance by women to apply for new positions unless they feel they meet all the job criteria.
- Consider how we can develop a strong, reciprocal network of trusted female leaders in Lutheran learning communities, to mentor and support younger leaders, to share their journeys and encourage one another.
- Talk positively about how much we enjoy leadership, are rewarded by the opportunity to influence the direction of education and can contribute daily to the life and future of young people.
- Review school policies to examine if they are restricting women from entering or returning to leadership after a break.
Some wise, advice for leaders in education, from Lisa Rodgers, CEO AITSL, and Ita Buttrose, legendary journalist and advocate for women’s rights. They reminded leaders that we positively change the trajectory of children every day. We contribute to something greater than ourselves. As leaders, we inspire (or should inspire) and enable others to become leaders in their own right. For all in leadership “Aim higher than you think you can reach.” (Lisa Rodgers, CEO AITSL)