We Are The City: Supporting The Female Pipeline

I was interviewed and profiled this week for We Are the City’s ‘Inspirational Women’.

Their mission: supporting women in their careers/helping firms attract/retain/develop their female talent.

For news/conferences/events/awards/jobs/tech/career resources follow @WATC_updates and check out their website here.

My interview:

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I am very goal orientated and have always had a 3-5 year professional plan. I was advised when I first qualified that the optimum time for my first few roles was 3 years so I could ascertain what sort of position, culture, line manager, context etc I needed to thrive. Career development advice is lacking in teaching and this is one of the reasons why we founded #womened – to support and nurture the leadership pipeline for women in education.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Lots! Mainly navigating being the youngest and the only female on several teams. I had to develop a thick skin and take undue criticism on the chin. I also had to find and use my voice – there is no point sitting at the table if you are not present. I am really candid, I have found that being direct and straight talking helps you to hold your ground.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?

Know yourself. I have spent a lot of timing being coached, reflecting and discussing who I  am as an educator and as a leader. Knowing my values, being able to articulate them, has helped me to articulate my vision and this has shaped my leadership behaviours. I make all decisions from my core values which are my compass.

When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

I have just recruited a brand new team. I long and short listed based on values. I then created a series of tasks to test each of the values. I also had to think carefully about the team dynamic and succession planning for the future. It was a balancing act. I would love to see more gender and racially blind application processes across the system.

How do you manage your own boss?

I have always led up. I am super-organised so I would lead the calendar of our line management dates/ times. I am a communicator and initiated how we would capture our agenda/ minutes/ work flow. I hold my team, myself and my line manager to account.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

I start with a shower and a cup of coffee, I end with a bath and a glass of wine!

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?

Work on your personal brand  – how do people see you and how do you want to be seen? Make sure people know what you are doing and the impact you are having. Learn to not only celebrate but to share tour successes, big and small, model this with your team. Say yes to opportunities and work out how to do it later. Find the gaps in the structure and offer to lead on projects/ initiatives that will add value. Network internally and externally, after all it is who you know not what you know that opens doors.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

I have received a lot of coaching in the last year as I made the transition to Headteacher. I now have a mentor to grow as a professional and a coach to grow as a human. I cannot recommend values based coaching enough. I am also a coach for other women in education who aspire to lead or who are leading but stuck in a rut to help them get that foot up the ladder.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what 3 tips would you give to a newbee networker?

Networking is key. Join twitter and linked in. Go to events and meet your virtual connections in real time. Stay connected and engage in professional dialogue. My #womened tribe inspire and empower me every day.

What does the future hold for you?

I started my Headship in January and will open my first school in September, with a second one opening the year after. I have been asked to become a Trustee and to write a book.  All of this has happened due to coaching and networking so get out there and start connecting.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The dynamic pipeline of leaders I have recruited for Aureus School.
  • The promotions I have heard about in the #womened community.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I have not had much chance to read recently but have enjoyed delving through the WATC archive.
  • I have just written a blog for Viv Grant so am thinking how to create a culture of wellbeing for all of my staff but also for all of my leaders with a focus on the female leaders in the pipeline.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • My contacts in the #womened #edtech emerging network who are coming to Aureus for a planning meeting this week.
  • My TSA contacts who are coming to Aureus for a planning meeting after half-term for a Return to Work/ Maternity/ KIT programme.
  • My #wellbeing contacts who I will see at the MHWB teachmeet this week.

Networking: Connection, Community, Collaboration

Networking can sometimes be a dirty word for teachers. For the cynics out there we don’t go into teaching to become corporate and to behave as business people do. For the optimists out there, we go into teaching to make a difference – we can do this alone, head down, in our individual classrooms or we can see ourselves as being part of something bigger, contributing to the system rather than a school.  In a lot of other industries networking is an expectation, an opportunity to connect with the community, to communicate what you are doing, to create collaborations. When described like this we see that it is aligned with what we do in education too.

Networking has become a hot topic in education, for those of us who engage in it or those who are intrigued by it. In the last few weeks I have been asked to contribute to several educational events to share my networking story and to encourage others to appreciate the potential power of their Professional Learning Network.

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I think these 3 values embody for me why I network:

Connection:

I meet people who I would not normally connect with. Each connection starts a new professional relationship. Many of these professional connections have grown into personal friendships with people who I would not have met had I not put myself out there. Each connection brings value to me as a person, as a professional but equally brings value back into my school community which will ultimately impact the children. I share my connections and am constantly introducing people who are working on similar projects or who are exploring similar ideas.

Community:

Teaching can be a lonely place if you spend hours in your classroom by yourself. Leading can be a lonely place if you spend hours in your office out of hours, and work in a school where it is them against us. Networking raises you above the local politics and drops you into a space with people who get you, get your situation but who are also seeking different ways of doing things, different ways of working together to find solutions to our challenges.

Collaboration:

This for me is the most exciting bit. Once you have invested in making the connections and grown your community, it is the collaborations that spawn out of this space that create the buzz. Through #womened #bameed #teacher5aday, 3 of the communities who I connect and collaborate with, the opportunities to get involved in things have been endless. A great example of this is the #iwd17 virtual toolkit a group of us are working on for 8/3. Dauntless Daughters, Action Aid, WomenEd and 30 educators contributing a resource each which will then be shared far and wide for others to benefit from.

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Here are my reflections from the events I have been asked to attend and speak at about the Power of the #PLN.

Leading Women’s Alliance #SeizingOpps:

I attended a year ago as DHT, I returned this year as a new HT. Carol and Kate, 2 of the organisers, asked me to share how networking has opened doors and created opportunities for me, personally and professionally. Through Twitter I have met coaches who have helped me to process who I am as a leader and clarify what my vision is. Through reading blogs and finding events to attend through eventbrite  I went to a lot of educational events last year. I met people I knew Twitter for a coffee at these events. One of these coffees was with Jon, my new CEO, he wasn’t recruiting, I wasn’t hunting for a new job but a conversation led to a new door being opened.

#TFAmbassadors event:

The Local Engagement Officers for Teach First London North, South, East and West asked me to speak to the ambassadors about how I have grown my network. I asked them why there were in Dirty Martinis on a Thursday night – was their motivation the free food and drink, or was it the potential connections they would make in the room. I encouraged them to speak to people they did not know in the room, to network beyond their immediate circle of contacts. I challenged them to put themselves out there, to go beyond their comfort zones and to follow up the connections that they made.

#TeachMeetWork:

Naomi Ward is one of our #womened Regional Leaders for the SE. She is doing some work with Portsmouth College and the Apprenticeship team – she asked me to speak   about how networking is a skill that needs to be taught and to address why it is easier for some student groups than others. I referenced the fact that if you are a white middle class man, especially if you attend a private school, that you will have an extensive network of family connections to open doors for you. That you will be able to arrange work placements in the City, in law firms, because you will know someone who knows someone in this space. I reinforced that we need to create these networks for our young people, that we need to remove some of the social barriers and create opportunities for them to make meaningful connections for future collaborations. I cited the example of a school in a deprived part of South London who host networking events, bringing business into the school, to make those introductions and to create those opportunities for the student body.

Diverse Leaders Programme #BAMEed #womened:

We have 3 cohorts of existing and aspiring leaders – 75 brilliant individuals – who are navigating their way around being identified as being from under-represented groups  in the schools’ workforce, finding their career pathway and being inspired/ empowered to fulfill their potential and pursue their dreams. I have led a day with each group before half-term and shared my personal/ professional journey of how investing in networking has impacted my career. We talked at length about the pros and cons, the barriers and the challenges, of being transparent, authentic leaders. We reflected on our whys, considered how to support one another in achieving them and articulated what sort of leaders we want to be. I have felt very proud of each of them being 10% braver and taking their next steps towards their goals.

Teach First Conference – Careers Panel:

Yesterday I was asked to contribute as a new Headteacher to a panel about seeking and securing leadership opportunities. Each of the leaders on the panel had had a different career trajectory but each of us referenced how our networks had supported our growth, we also encouraged the audience to create opportunities for themselves, to put themselves out there and connect with people. We each talked about how we had been recruited and how we were recruiting – with budget issues and a recruitment/ retention issues schools need to be more creative with how they ‘get the people on the bus’ then ‘how they get the right  people in the right seats’. We each networked in different ways but agreed that you need to be proactive and use your initiative.

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So give it a go, come in to the light, push yourself out of your comfort zone, feel the sunshine on your face. I promise you, you will find your tribe of connections who will inspire and empower you. We were all the newbie once and know what it feels like, I encouraged a friend who I trained with to join Twitter this week and she messaged me to say she felt quite overwhelmed at how friendly, genuine, helpful and supportive everyone is in our extended network.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Connecting and collaborating with like-minded people

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I am reading each of the blogs @staffrm by our Diverse Leaders, delighting in their reflections as they find their voice, use their voice and amplify each others voices – check out the blogs #womened and #bameed

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The amazing connections I have made in the last few years – I am now friends with some brilliant educators who I would not have known had I not invested the time in going to #teachmeets, hosting #leadmeets, tweeting and blogging
  • My memory for names and faces – the more people you meet the harder it is to remember everyone!
  • Carol/ Kate, Naomi, Chris/ Chloe for their invites to speak about my experience of networking
  • Allana/ Paul, Jaz/ Bukky  for their contributions to our networking days