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Advancing Female Leaders in Education

February 2020 by Tradewind Australia

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It’s no secret that the Education sector in Australia has its fair share of female teachers, so on the surface, it seems we’re doing pretty well when it comes to gender diversity in education. But digging a little deeper reveals that while female teachers abound, there is still a gender disparity when it comes to women in educational leadership positions.

Let’s turn to the statistics and look at some of the reasons why, along with a few suggestions to promote true gender equality across the sector.
 

The Stats and the Reasons

According to the Global Education Monitoring Report, across all OECD countries (of which Australia is a part), only 45% of those occupying a school principal position are women. Things are worse at the university level, with just 27% of university professors being female.

When it comes to primary education, the most recent statistics show that 80% of teachers are female, while just over 55% of principals are women. In secondary schools, close to 60% of teachers are female, and just over 40% of principals.

Of course, there are a wide variety of reasons for the lack of female leaders in Education, and it would take a while to unpack them all. But the National Excellence in School Leadership Initiative (NESLI) gave it a good go in their 2018 Year of Women in School Leadership whitepaper.

Some of their key findings for the gender disparity in educational leadership include:

  1. Women are more likely to experience a career interruption
    According to ACER statistics, 73% of male teachers enjoy unbroken longevity in their career, while only 46% of female teachers have the same. A career break often proves to be a barrier in gaining the requisite experience to advance to a leadership position.
     
  2. Women are less likely to put their hand up for a leadership role
    In the same ACER survey, 24% of male primary teachers said they’d be keen to apply for a leadership position in the next three years, with only 6% of female primary teachers saying the same. The reasons for this are multi-faceted, but the statistics are nonetheless a big reality check.
     
  3. There just aren’t enough female mentors and role models
    The very best leaders all have someone to look up to and identify with as they work towards greater career heights. But with the current lack of women in educational leadership, particularly in school principal roles, NESLI quite rightly feels it can be difficult for female teachers to find mentors to help them advance.
     

Righting the Gender Imbalance in School Leadership

The NESLI whitepaper offers a plethora of interesting ideas on how to improve the numbers of female leaders in the Education sector. Much of that focuses on helping female teachers build their leadership capabilities and encouraging them to aspire to take on those roles, all backed up with support from mentors and the chance to undertake further qualifications.

The Australian Government recently invested valuable funding in this area. It’s designed to help high performing teachers in regional and rural areas advance into a leadership position, as many of the current principals are reaching retirement age.

Dubbed the ‘Future Leaders Program’, teachers can apply for a grant and if successful, use it to access a host of training, support and mentoring resources to prepare them for leadership positions. With many vacancies projected for leadership roles in rural and regional schools in the near future, this program could be a great boost for female teachers.
 

Ready for a Leadership Role?

If this article has got you thinking about your current teaching role and whether a leadership role could be on your horizon or you’re just looking for the next step in your career, we have plenty of opportunities that may suit. With over 20 years in education recruitment, we’re well placed to provide advice and support; whether that’s about a change of schools, or how to grow your teaching career in 2020. Feel free to get in touch.