The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Elizabeth Holmes

Spotlight on #WomenEd

Is #WomenEd, a growing grassroots movement for women aspiring to school leadership, a force for good in education's current climate? I caught up with Jules Daulby to find out more.

Elizabeth Holmes: What is #WomenEd?

Jules Daulby: #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 Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (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.

EH: Could you distil your main areas of focus?

JD: We're currently working on 8 'Cs'. They are:

  • clarity
  • communication
  • connection
  • confidence
  • collaboration
  • community
  • challenge
  • change.

EH: Why is now the time for #WomenEd?

JD: #WomenEd sprang from blogs written by Helena Marsh, Jill Berry and Vivienne Porritt on @Staffrm. It was following these posts that #WomenEd began, bourne from a sense of frustration among women in education that their voices weren’t being heard, a lack of confidence to negotiate contracts and pay, and an urge to network for support and advice.

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' forward. This phrase from Jill Berry and ‘#10% braver’, (courtesy of #WomenEd supporter Sue Cowley) are two messages we try to abide by in #WomenEd. 

With encouragement and a ‘virtual’ network of mentors, women are feeling more confident to 'take the leap' forward

EH: What did #WomenEd set out to achieve?

JD: 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.

EH: What are your goals now?

JD: We hope to continue to grow, while remaining a grassroots movement. The success of the organisation is that it consists of authentic educators, solely helping to increase diversity in educational leadership. We want to encourage as many women as possible to negotiate and develop their careers.

Having a wider impact via #WomenEd is also important. We are encouraging female students to become involved and a strong #heforshe support network is also growing.

At our latest unconference, a panel of male headteachers discussing how best to encourage women to apply for senior positions proved popular.

EH: These are admirable goals in today’s educational climate. What can you say #WomenEd has achieved so far?

JD: #WomenEd has been mentioned in the DFE’s White Paper as a key support group for the development of women's leadership. We are generally the main point of contact for press on gender and diversity issues in education. We have held two national unconferences and many events across twelve regions, each with a regional leader.

In addition, Microsoft gifted us a virtual Yammer community; a network for people to raise concerns and find support among members.

We’ve seen a discernible increase in the number of women applying to become CEOs, headteachers, senior and middle leaders; attributing their success to the support and philosophy offered by #WomenEd.

We’ve seen a discernible increase in the number of women applying to become CEOs, headteachers, senior and middle leaders

EH: What will the future hold for #WomenEd?

JD: We hope 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 sufficiently supported and confident to apply for leadership positions, which will assuage the problems caused by the sector’s current recruitment crisis.

Above all, we hope to see a more equal society and a better spread of decision makers in education; we are delighted to see the launch of #BAMEed, and fully support their efforts ‘to ensure visible diversity in education.’

You can find out more about #WomenEd on their website and Yammer group

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