Women in education need #HeForShe advocates: together we are stronger.
There is a misconception that #WomenEd is exclusive to women. Let’s debunk this myth. Sue Cowley put it beautifully in her blog on the collective community voice post our Bristol #LeadMeet: “We weren’t putting down men, we were putting up women”. #WomenEd is an inclusive group, not a clique, yes we are predominantly female, but not by choice. All of our events are open to men – but only a few have joined us in London and Bristol, by choice not by invite; we hope to see more male supporters and contributors at our October Unconference this year.
The reality is that a lot of male leaders are silent supporters of the #WomenEd movement but are not quite sure how to help. Others are waiting to be asked to participate as they do not want to over-step the mark. Whilst a few have jested that our events are for women to gossip and bitch about men, conjuring up images of Macbeth’s witches.
So how can male leaders, Headteachers and CEOs support female existing and aspiring female leaders? How can they empower women in education?
Chris Hildrew, Headteacher, Churchill Academy, has been an open supporter from the conception of #WomenEd, and he has written several compelling blogs about gender equality:
“This is me, standing up to be counted. I am a feminist. As soon as Emma Watson launched the #HeForShe campaign back in September, I signed up. Her passionate, often personal, and powerful speech vocalised everything that I believe to be important about gender equality. In the sign up, the campaign asks for a commitment to:
- Express zero tolerance for discrimination and violence against women and girls
- Believe in equal access to social, political and economic opportunities
- Understand that taking a stand for women and girls is taking a stand for humanity
- Speak up when you see physical, emotional or sexual harassment
These were not difficult commitments for me to make personally, but they made me realise how important it is for me as a male teacher to make them professionally. It is vitally important that the students I teach in the schools I lead see that gender equality is an issue that affects men and women, and that it is male attitudes that need to change for the benefit of both genders. It is not just with students that my feminist commitment applies. It is a scandal that, in a profession with a 74% female workforce, a higher proportion of men make it to senior leadership positions than women. I am one of those men. It is my responsibility as a school leader to encourage and develop female leaders, to redress this balance. Sexist attitudes are endemic, ingrained and often almost overlooked”.
Bravo Chris! Not many men own the word ‘feminist’ and are committed to changing school culture as you are.
James Toop, CEO, Teaching Leaders, goes on to add how the system can support women in education progress to become leaders:
“I’m a huge supporter of the #WomenEd movement. Women make up 60% of each Teaching Leaders cohort of high-potential middle leaders and we’re determined not to see that percentage shrink as they move into senior leader or headteacher roles. Our Fellows do seem to be bucking the national trend. We’re proud that three of our four first generation of headteachers are women. I’d like to think that the confidence and self-awareness that all Fellows build through coaching and intensive development enables great leaders of both genders to step up where and when they’re needed most”.
As James acknowledges, by making the system more supportive of aspiring female leaders, it is improved for everyone.
John Tomsett, Headteacher Huntington School, is the kind of Headteacher we all want to work for:
“At Huntington we have 108 teachers. Our average annual staff turnover has a healthy 10% over the last eight years. At one single point two years ago we had 16 colleagues who were pregnant. We have over thirty part-time teachers, mostly women. The vast majority of those colleagues have been retained because we have actively worked to accommodate a work pattern which supports their new circumstances. Our students have benefitted hugely from our flexible approach to part-time working since we have retained some incredibly talented female teachers. As Jonathon Simmons says: ‘if the teaching profession as a whole can accommodate more flexible ways of working…there is much to be gained.’ (The Importance of Teachers: a collection of essays on teacher recruitment and retention – Policy Exchange, March 2016)”.
Who wouldn’t want to work in a school where being a parent is seen as adding value to your skill set? Where all staff are entitled to a ‘family day’ each academic year?
Sir Dan Moynihan, CEO, Harris Federation, leads a MAT that has a vision of equality as a British value that we should all aspire to:
“With a high proportion of female leaders, we are bucking the national trend. In Ann Berger, Sabeena Hasan and Carolyn English, our Education Directors, and our Vice-Chair Ros Wilton, we have senior female role models. We also have many female Principals and Executive Principals. But, equally, our male leaders epitomise #HeforShe. As Principal of our girls’ academy in Bermondsey, Alan Dane hosted a conference for local boys and girls to challenge the low percentage of women in some industries. We want our students, boys and girls, to understand gender equality is a core value of British life. Across Harris, we are doing all that we can to exemplify this”.
Show me a leader who does not believe that we need to address the inequalities in our society, moreover show me a parent who does not believe that his daughter should have equality of opportunity and pay to her male peers.
Sir Steve Lancashire, CEO, Reach2 Trust, leads a MAT that is committed to talent-spotting and succession planning:
“We take talent-spotting and genuine staff professional development very seriously across our family of schools at REAch2 and Reach4. So much so, that if you look at our senior teams, we have a female CEO of Reach4, our Deputy CEO of REAch2 is a woman, we have a female group Finance Director and three of our six Executive Principals – each of whom oversee a region – are women too. What’s more, if you look at all of the Heads across our schools, 90 percent are female. This means we have tremendous female role models for the younger generation. We also, however, have a responsibility to spot and nurture talent up stream too. We have a number of programmes to do just this, with many of them focusing on 1:1 coaching with senior female colleagues. We have a leadership programme, called Future Leaders Plus, to spot that precious spark of talent, even as early as the NQT year which means that we can talent mange our most able women to ensure theyWe take talent spotting and genuine staff professional development very seriously across our family of schools at Reach2 and Reach4. So much so, that if you look at our senior teams, we have a female CEO of Reach4, our Deputy CEO of Reach2 is a woman, we have a female group Finance Director and three of our six Executive Principals – each of whom oversees a region – are women too. What’s more – if you look at all of the Heads across our schools, 90 percent are female. This means we have tremendous female role models for the younger generation. We also, however, have a responsibility to spot and nurture talent up stream too. We have a number of programmes to do just this, with many of them focusing on 1:1 coaching with senior female colleagues. We have a leadership programme called Future Leaders Plus, to spot that precious spark of talent, even as early as the NQT year which means that we can talent manage our most able women to ensure that they are provided with the support and development they need to succeed to our most senior posts”.
So the next time a male leader says: where is my place in the movement? How can I contribute? What do you need me to do? Highlight the #HeForShe advocates who are trailblazing gender equality in the education system. After all, if we cannot get it right as a sector, what hope is there for other professions?