#WomenEd: Connecting female leaders in education

Written by: Hannah Wilson | Published:
Image: #WomenEd

#WomenEd – the movement to challenge gender inequality in school leadership – is gaining momentum ahead of its first official ‘unconference’ on October 3. Co-founder Hannah Wilson recaps the debate that has brought us here and previews the event

An avid Twitter user, in May I stumbled across StaffRm. I was redirected there by a tweet about “glass ceilings” blocking progression for female leaders in education that piqued my interest. I was not to know that I had stumbled across a whole new world.

To be honest, I am not sure how I was so late arriving at the party. For those of you who have not yet checked it out, StaffRm is quite simply a collaborative community of enthusiastic teachers and thinkers sharing, reflecting and discussing education.

The comments and discussions are as rich as the posts themselves. In a matter of days I had connected with people who were voicing educational ideas and opinions that resonated deeply with me.

In a matter of weeks we had formed the #WomenEd Steering Group to plan a professional learning event for what Jill Berry (@jillberry102) calls the “lost leaders”.

It was not enough to tweet, post and comment – we felt compelled to bring this community together to share and learn from each other’s experiences.

Hosting #SLTchat

July saw me volunteering to host #SLTchat on Twitter on behalf of #WomenEd – a feat that is not for the faint-hearted! It was the end of a long academic year and a particularly tough summer term, which had left me questioning my own sanity, when I found myself spending a weekend, not just prepping and hosting a fast-paced single-issue chat about gender issues and the barriers we face, but defending the #SLTchat topic itself.

Some followers were hypercritical that “juggling leadership and life” was not a suitable theme for the weekly chat for educational leaders. The topic was dismissed by many tweeters, male and female, as trivialising leadership challenges.

I was indignant – this was precisely why it was an important discussion to air – and I wrote a follow-up post asking Why is Discussing Gender Issues so Contentious? (See http://staffrm.io/@misswilsey/b6WNbhLQAU).

The website

The summer saw the Steering Group planning an “unconference” for October from sun-loungers in far-flung destinations. By this point we had consolidated our partnership with Microsoft and had a confirmed date and venue – there was just the small matter of recruiting enough facilitators and selling enough tickets.

Seven full-time senior leaders, some with families to entertain, we really were the epitome of “juggling leadership and life” – handheld devices precariously perched by poolside cocktails as we tried to simultaneously escape our lives as leaders while liaising with our community.

Session offers, workshop outlines and bios started coming in thick and fast, creating significant additional work for us all – for Sameena Choudry of Equitable Education in particular, as she has spent the summer months constructing our website: www.womened.org.

StaffRm #Digimeet

Acutely aware that Sunday night is not the best time for all leaders to contribute and benefit from a quick-fire chat on Twitter, Helena Marsh (@helenamarsh81) suggested hosting a “slow-chat” on Staffrm at the start of the new term to support leaders stepping up to new roles and facing new challenges.

This “curtain-raising” event was planned to set the scene for the strands we will be exploring at the unconference and it did not disappoint as we found ourselves trending between Jeremy Corbyn and Justin Bieber on September 13.

Well done to Helena for organising such a brilliant online learning event – you can still read the posts and join the discussions stimulated from the inspiring #WomenEd voices below:

The unconference

So 200 of us will be descending on Microsoft’s head offices in London on Saturday, October 3, to discuss, listen, reflect and learn from one another (this time face-to-face) at our inaugural “unconference”.

With 50-plus high-calibre keynote speakers, panellists and session facilitators it should be a thought-provoking and rousing day.

Furthermore, it should be a day where our voices, and identities, will be represented by the diverse leaders who have volunteered their time and expertise.

There are, at the time of going to print, a few tickets left if you are interested in joining us (see further information).


Post the event in October we will be supporting the Teaching and Learning Takeover event on October 17 in Southampton.

If you are there, pop along to our collaboration stall to meet us and find out more about how you can support and get involved with #WomenEd through our Regional Networks, which we will be launching in the next few months.

  • 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

Further information


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