Following our inaugural YamJam, our WomenEd ideas session started me thinking about what WomenEd means to me. The advantage of such a self-supporting movement, led by a fabulous steering group, is that it’s an open house, a place for sharing ideas, collaboration and personal reflection.
For me, I see WomenEd as a sustainable grass-roots movement that nurtures female leadership and promotes opportunities for women to shape the educational climate of the country. Whilst self-deprecatingly suggesting that this may be ‘a tad ambitious’, it hit me that perhaps that such qualification is the very reason WomenEd is needed.
In a bid to avoid being seen as ‘bitchy’, ‘pushy’ or ‘arrogant’, female leaders and aspiring leaders too often feel the need to water down their ambitions in a way that a male colleague would never need to. WomenEd allows women to claim the same terms that are afforded to male leaders: ambitious, confident and assertive.
WomenEd values leadership in all forms, from aspiring head teachers to part time colleagues who find promoted posts are ‘not available for job share’. WomenEd is not about positive discrimination, nor is it about promoting female needs over their male counterparts. What WomenEd does is create a safe space to discuss issues that can hinder women from shining on the same stage as men. Those involved in WomenEd (from both genders) are increasingly aware that gender equality is as much a men’s issue as it is a women’s issue and it’s not always men who raise barriers to prevent female leadership.
Since volunteering to be one of the North-East’s co-leads for WomenEd, I’ve been inspired by the range of leadership experiences and approaches that members of the moment bring to the table. It’s a privilege to debate, share and collaborate with a diverse and talented group of leaders. If anything, it highlights that a narrow, competitive view of leadership that creates a ‘race to the bottom’ as people clamber on top of each other to get the carrot doesn’t benefit anybody. In fact, it potentially alienates a huge talent pool of excellent teachers and aspiring leaders who simply don’t fit that model of leadership. The mentoring and support available within WomenEd is invaluable as leaders seek to build each other up and share ideas in a way that is organic and representative of its members.
Quite simply, I joined WomenEd because no woman should have to apologise for being ambitious and no girl should be branded ‘bossy’ for being assertive and confident.
Clichéd as it is, if your dreams don’t scare you then they’re not big enough. Looking forward, WomenEd could redefine leadership. It could be a driving force for alternative models of leadership where traits like cooperation, collaboration and humility are valued as leadership traits in their own right – not a sign of weakness.
We should be shaping the educational agenda and bringing people along with us so that they see that a more representative educational leadership brings about better outcomes for all.