Many women leading in education will know that the gender gap in school leadership persists. Drawing on research into why gender gaps exist and the self-perceptions of both men and women, school leader Caroline Sherwood offers her own poignant and honest reflections.
In 2015, women constituted 64 per cent of classroom teachers but only 40 per cent of headteachers (Department for Education, 2016). At its current rate, women’s representation in headship will not match their representation in the teaching workforce before 2040 (Fuller, 2017). Why? What barriers are women facing? And what do these look like in an everyday school setting?
Admitting I am plagued with self-doubt makes me feel vulnerable. I often feel out of my league. I often feel out-classed, but I very rarely talk about it.
In Age and Gender Differences in Self-Esteem: A cross-cultural window, Bleidorn et al, having completed an eight-year study analysing data from over 985,000 men and women across 48 countries, concluded that men consistently report higher levels of self-esteem than women.
“This gender gap emerges in adolescence and persists throughout early and middle adulthood before it narrows and perhaps even disappears in old age.”
This gap widens and becomes more prominent in developed, egalitarian countries – perhaps where you’d expect it to narrow. But what does this gap look like? What does it feel like? Why is it there? And why don’t we talk about it?
The belief that female leaders lack confidence places the problem firmly at women’s feet – but I’d question whether climate and environment carry more influence than perhaps originally considered.
The Glass Lift, an organisation which works with both the private and public sector aiming to change the face of leadership, believes that it is a myth that women lack confidence. Anyone can feel confident when supported and challenged.
Tarnishing all women with the same brush-stroke is wrong and provides a convenient excuse for the current social injustice.
If a woman – or a man – lacks confidence it perhaps says more about the environment they are in rather than their personal confidence levels.
Read the full article and Caroline’s five daily tips for success.
Day 1: Praise
Day 2: Owning my success
Day 3: Quietly triumphant
Day 4: Contagious emotions
Day 5: A broken heart
Thank you Caroline for your great article and powerful insights.
Caroline teaches English at South Molton Community College in Devon, is Pupil Premium champion and teaching and learning lead. Caroline is also a Specialist Leader in Education with the Dartmoor Teaching School Alliance and is project director for Women Leaders in Education in the South West.
The Glass Lift are delighted to be supporting Women Leading in Education, South West. The WLiE vision is to grow a regional teacher equality network, with a focus on leadership and gender (though not exclusively as other factors, such as ethnicity, LGBT could be addressed in the same way)
If you are working in Education in the South West and would like to find out more visit their website here.