For those of us who delight in devising our New Year’s resolutions, 1 January is a cinch.
Women headteachers are still under-represented in our schools, with the number of female heads falling short of the proportion of women in teaching.
Although the recent School Workforce Census reveals the gap in gender balance in school leadership is now beginning to narrow, this under-representation is still a concern: in 2014, the proportion of female headteachers in secondary schools was 37.1 per cent, whilst the proportion of female classroom teachers in secondary schools was 63.9 per cent.
But why is it important to re-dress the imbalance of school leadership? Because a workforce of diverse school leaders is good for a school system that has achievement for all young people at the heart of its values. Our children, young people and their communities need to see that their school can model not only diversity but authentic leadership in the form of a variety of leadership styles and behaviours. Women enhance that move towards diversity and authenticity.
To bring about change it is important to understand what the challenges are for women to advance towards a school leadership role. I discussed these in greater detail in my Leader article Turning the Tide, however, in summary, inequality in pay, difficulties with childcare arrangements together with the high risk inspection (or ‘football manager syndrome’) now prevalent within the education system, all serve to affect either confidence or the inclination to take on a school leader’s role.
Governing boards and recruitment panels have a key part to play in addressing and overcoming these challenges. It is generally accepted that some governors have an unconscious gender bias in appointments and in her article Finding the right woman for the job, Dr Kate Chhatwal describes the interesting results in appointments when governing boards were removed from the recruitment process.
So, how can we address this under-representation in 2016?
Join the ASCL Equalities Network, aiming to empower members to connect, coach and build mutually supportive programmes as well as providing information on the Women into Leadership programme.
Dr Kate Chhatwal, mentioned above, will be just one of many experts presenting at Leading Women to Leadership – The Summit on 15 January at Mulberry School, London. The Summit has been organised by an alliance of leadership and academic organisations (ASCL, The Future Leaders Trust, IoE and #WomenEd) and schools (Mulberry School for Girls, Hackney Teaching Schools Alliance and COLAI), and will draw on a range of research evidence and practical expertise. Delegates will have an opportunity to hear from key players in the field of women’s leadership, gather top tips for interviews, be matched with experienced women heads who will coach and support and be a part of a summit that develops a pledge to be rolled out across schools and organisations nationally. Click here to register.
If you can’t make The Summit, ASCL is also running a one day event Confidence for Headship: is it for me? in Manchester on 4 February.
If you’re an aspiring headteacher or an experienced system leader, join me in turning that collective 2016 New Year’s resolution of promoting more women into headship a reality.