What is #WomenEd?
#WomenEd is a grassroots movement which connects existing and aspiring leaders in education. Even though women dominate the workforce across all sectors of education there still remain gender inequalities, particularly at senior leadership level and especially in secondary schools. The situation regarding BAME leadership is even more dire considering the fact that the student population is becoming increasingly diverse. This is clearly unacceptable and rapid change is needed. #WomenEd will therefore campaign and use its collective power to make improvements, so that there is a more equitable balance in terms of gender and ethnicity at leadership level across all sectors of education.
Our 8 Cs are Clarity, Communication, Connection, Confidence, Collaboration, Community, Challenge and Change:
Why is now the time for #WomenEd?
#WomenEd sprang from blogs written by women leading in education on @Staffrm. It was following these posts that #WomenEd originated and has since grown exponentially. There seemed to be a sense of frustration among women in education that their voice wasn't being heard , a lack of confidence to negotiate contracts and pay and an urge to network for support and advice. Teaching can be a lonely place and without a support structure, women may feel unsure about applying for promotion. With encouragement and a ‘virtual’ network of mentors, women are feeling more confident to ‘take the leap’. This phrase from Jill Berry and ‘#10% braver’, (courtesy of #WomenEd supporter Sue Cowley) are two messages we try to abide by in #WomenEd.
What did #WomenEd set out to achieve?
We wanted to create a space for networking which would encourage women to aspire to, and gain, leadership positions. In addition, our aim was to raise awareness of statistics and encourage those who are hiring to be proactive in their recruitment processes. Blind applications, informed knowledge of unconscious bias and accepting differences in how people may present themselves are all issues senior level staff should have on their agenda.
What goals do #WomenEd have?
Our goals are to continue growing and to remain a grassroots movement. The success of the organisation is that it’s based on authentic educators with a sole purpose to help increase diversity in educational leadership. We want to help and encourage as many women as possible to feel able to negotiate and develop their careers. Having a wider impact via #WomenEd is another goal. We are encouraging female students to become involved and a strong #HeForShe support network is also growing. At our latest Unconference a popular panel included male Heads discussing how best to encourage women to apply for senior positions.
What has #WomenEd contributed to date?
#WomenEd has been mentioned in the DFE’s White paper as a key group to support the development of women's leadership, we have had two national unconferences, many regional events and are generally who the press will contact on gender and diversity issues in education. There are now 12 Regions with Regional Leaders attached. These volunteers run events and connect and the Steering Group are the National Leaders to add support. Microsoft built us a virtual Yammer community which is a network for people to find coaches and ask for advice and there is a sense from the majority of members that it is a supportive network which allows people to connect in a way which they hadn’t before. Impact has been seen in the number of women who have applied to become a CEO, a headteacher, a senior of middle leader and who attribute their success to the support and philosophy of #WomenEd.
What hopes for the future does #WomenEd have?
Our aim is to see a statistically equal representation of women and BAME leaders in education which reflects not only the workforce but also the student population. We want women to feel supported and confident enough to apply for leadership positions which will support schools as they deal with a significant recruitment crisis. But this isn’t just about women; a more equitable society and a better spread of decision makers in education will benefit all.