Gender equality in school leadership

How to inspire women to take the lead

Gender equality in school leadership | Marple Hall School

Recently I have been working closely with our Senior Assistant Headteacher Lyn Lawton on a number of school priorities; the development of homework, ongoing training for colleagues and getting the most from boys to name just three. During our conversations Lyn introduced me to an excellent book about women in school leadership entitled ‘10% braver – inspiring women to lead education’. It’s an excellent book that questions why women are so under-represented in school leadership roles. For example, whilst 74% of the school workforce are women only 65% of headteachers are female. In our sector the gap is even bigger; 62% of secondary school teachers are female but they make up only 36% of headteachers. The book discusses the possible reasons for this imbalance and what can be done to encourage and support more women to take on leadership roles. The gap is made even more stark when I consider that as a school leader one of our annual priorities is to boost the performance of boys, who on average at GCSE level at least lag behind girls across the country. There is a deep and rich talent pool when it comes to the female workforce in education and the #womenEd is leading the way in ensuring that talent finds it’s way to the top.

As a male Headteacher, reading the book, it has given me a lot of food for thought. It has made me question whether I have been ‘complacently arrogant’ (a new term I have just invented) ie whether I have convinced myself that I support people equally no matter their gender, and therefore I haven’t given this issue enough time or attention. On a superficial level we have a senior team that is roughly 50-50 in terms of male/female balance, and 70% of our senior ‘middle leaders’ are women. However, are there barriers in our school that are holding female colleagues back? Does the school do enough to encourage and help people who may just need the smallest level of support before they can fly in their careers? I’ll confess that I don’t know the answers yet, but it’s something that I am keen to work on in school.

Having read the book referenced above I was guided to watch Emma Watson’s 2014 speech at the UN. I’m slightly ashamed that I haven’t watched it before. In it Emma outlines the ‘HeforShe’ movement, a drive to encourage men to join the gender equality movement for the benefit of everyone. I found it an inspirational speech and so I thought I’d include a link to it here.

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