Unleashing the Genie: Connecting women in education

post by SheLeadsEdu Hell Raiser: Jody Britten

The Second World War brought challenge and question to tradition and status quo. Suddenly, the women who were relegated to roles directed by men were thrust forward and offered opportunity. Opportunity that until that moment women were denied access.

During this unprecedented time, 19 million women worked for wages and 5 million became wage earners for the first time.

Among the traditions that were challenged during WWII, was the role of women in education. While women led in the absence of men, when the war ended many were once again limited by tradition and historic status quo.

“ …we quickly put the women of WWII back in the genies bottle.” 

Pam Moran

Since WWII women have ebbed and flowed through opportunity and oppression. Some would argue that opportunity has been contrived, even amidst undeniable contributions. During the past few months we have once again witnessed astounding leadership from women.

From hospitals to classrooms to leadership in those countries that have handled the challenges of COVID-19 with proactive grace; women have led the masses through the chaos of the past four months.

In one place in particular, women have been key influencers through COVID-19 and beyond. And that place is in education.

Today roughly 72% of classroom teachers are female. In addition, an estimated 48% of school administrators are female, 13% of district administrators are female, and less than 40% of school boards are women.

An estimated 30% of founders of private sector companies serving education are female, an estimated 12% of keynote speakers at professional events are women, and a meager 5% of federal contracts are granted to women owned businesses. The landscape of connectedness and celebration of women in education seems a bit dim.

Quite possibly the most startling of reports suggest that 43% of male superintendents surveyed agreed that school boards tend to view women as incapable of managing a school district.

As research suggests, the leadership skills of women are undeniable. Yet in education women are often overlooked, uncelebrated, and disempowered. The continual struggle of women in education is clear.

  • They are overlooked for leadership.
  • They are not equitably accessing funding.
  • They aren’t given the same stage time as men.
  • They aren’t provided equitable access to contracts.
  • They aren’t given the same grace.
  • They aren’t acknowledged for the same contributions.
  • They are mansplained when they already know the reasons and research.
  • They aren’t allowed the same voice in their communities, and so much more.

Because all of this is nonsense in 2020, we recently launched SheLeadsEdu. As a place to support, celebrate, connect, and empower women in education (regardless of their role).

We are daring to think about what the world of education would look like if women were the majority of keynotes, superintendents, school board members, and more. We are daring to give women a safe space to connect, communicate, and collaborate.

We are daring to say, “all women deserve to see their peers as leaders in their own right and role models in their profession.”

Women have long been the mass army that powers education for our children. Today more than ever we need that army to band together, to learn with and from one another, and to support (rather than compete) with each other as they grow, develop, and nurture a system that must improve, advance, and develop to be the best it can possibly be for our children.

This is not about competing with men, it is about celebrating the fact that we are strong, smart, capable individuals (who happen to identify as women). Individuals that are worthy of connecting.

As many smart women have taught us, women can be their best supports for one another or worst enemies. It’s our goal to foster a group of women that can overcome the fear and pettiness that leads to speaking ill of others, fearing new voices, or gatekeeping voice.

It is our goal to see the beauty in contribution and dialogue.

Since it’s inception just two months ago, SheLeadsEdu has grown to over 500 strong, spanning four continents. During this time we have focused on developing a space where women in education can connect and begin to learn the power of their story.

We facilitated the origins of this group because we firmly believe,that it is time to create community among the largest group,of educators in the world: women.

Quite frankly ladies, it is time.

Join us as we make a collective effort to unleash the genie from the bottle. Join us as we develop and cultivate the voice of women in education.