Join the growing #WomenEd debate

Written by: Hannah Wilson | Published:

School leader and WomenEd co-founder Hannah Wilson updates SecEd on the profession-led, grassroots movement to promote equality, diversity and inclusivity within our country’s school leadership teams

Social media has come alive since last spring with tweets, blogs and discussions about gender equality in the education sector.

The website StaffRm has 150-plus blogs alone exploring the hot topics that have polarised the Twitter community.

As these discussions illustrate, the systemic barriers inhibiting leadership opportunities for female teachers are complex. Preferred leadership characteristics, career parents juggling childcare and career development, career gaps, unconscious bias, lack of governor training and lack of part-time leadership opportunities and co-headship roles are just some of the issues cited by our community.

The result of this is clear – the statistics showing women in secondary teaching compared with headships nationally are alarming.

In 2012, 61 per cent of teachers were female, but only 37 per cent of headteachers. In 2013, 63.6 per cent of teachers were female compared to 36.4 per cent of headteachers. And the figures for 2014 are 63.9 per cent vs 37.1 per cent respectively.

The mission

WomenEd has been borne out of these inequalities. It is very much a collaborative network, so our values have evolved as the community has connected. We have established our mission: to inspire and empower more women in education to become leaders.

We have also identified our principles as The 7 Cs:

  • To clarify the issues.
  • To communicate the solutions.
  • To connect existing and aspiring leaders.
  • To create an inclusive and interactive community.
  • To collaborate and share experiences.
  • To challenge the systemic barriers.
  • To affect change by collating evidence of the impact of developing inclusive/diverse leadership models.

The virtual community

On October 3, 2015, we celebrated the culmination of six months of virtual discussions when 220 aspiring and existing female leaders came together to collaborate and share their experiences face-to-face.

Sixty delegates volunteered to facilitate professional learning dialogues, lead sessions and deliver keynotes. Our themes for this event included Confident Leaders, Diverse Leaders, Wider Leadership and Juggling Leadership and Life.

To sustain the impact of the unconference and to grow the #WomenEd community, Microsoft has commissioned an independent Yammer network for us to use as a platform for networking.

The inclusive leadership community is rapidly expanding – join us for one of our monthly #YamJams (similar to a Twitter Edchat). It is a brilliant platform for networking with other aspiring and existing leaders, nationwide and beyond as we gain international attention.

The regional leaders

WomenEd was founded by seven educational leaders from various backgrounds and sectors. To increase our capacity and our reach, we have recruited 60 volunteers around the country to co-lead regional activity. The 12 regions cover the whole country and include Scotland and Northern Ireland. Together we plan to identify and meet the local needs of women in education, creating a series of bespoke regional events.

The regional networks

Throughout the spring term our volunteer regional leaders will be connecting and collaborating at orientation days where they will identify regional priorities and plan regional activities. The 12 regions each have their own group within the WomenEd community to share ideas, resources and opportunities. Anyone who joins our Yammer network can join their local regional network and follow, attend and hopefully contribute to the shaping of future activity.

A new year of activity

On January 15, we kicked off 2016 with The Summit, organised by the Leading Women’s Alliance, which includes partners such as the Association of School and College Leaders, the Future Leaders Trust, the Mulberry Teaching School Alliance, and WomenEd.

The day focused on talent-spotting and succession-planning for future female headteachers. Inspiring keynotes, panels and sessions were facilitated by some of the biggest names in diversity and equality, including Dr Marianne Coleman, Dr Kay Fuller and Dr Karen Edge. The event was supported by the Department for Education and a number of serving or retired headteachers.

From this event a Pledge for Action will be produced and distributed to challenge the systemic barriers reducing the number of women seeking and securing headships.

The residential

Our “Next Step” event is a residential career development event we are running in February. Hosted by Wellington Academy in Berkshire, this event is happening at the peak of application season. We want to support aspiring and existing leaders in preparing to take the next step on the leadership ladder.

Our themes for this event are applying, preparing, conducting and reflecting on taking your next steps in your career progression. There will also be Women in Leadership keynotes.
By the end of the residential, delegates will be ready to apply for their next role – they will have an updated CV, a LinkedIn profile, an improved letter of application – moreover, the aspirant leaders will have listened to the assessors, practised assessment tasks and role-played the interview questions.

The Future

On the horizon we also have a South West event planned for Bristol in April, plus WomenEd presentations at NetworkEd, Northern Rocks, Ed Fest and a number of regional TeachMeets. Watch out for more information about our second “unconference” too, which is planned for October 8, 2016.

  • Hannah Wilson, writing on behalf of the #WomenEd Steering Group, is a vice-principal in a south London school and is one of the co-founders of #WomenEd. Find her on Twitter @miss_wilsey or on StaffRm as MissWilsey.

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