Eight things we learned at the #WomenEd conference

#WomenEd was born out of dismay, and some anger, at the continuing lack of women in school leadership positions.

The networking organisation was set up earlier this year to help connect women who wanted to take action on the issue.

And just six months after the initial suggestion by Keziah Featherstone, headteacher of Bridge Learning Campus in Bristol, that WomenEd should “have a little conference”, more than 200 delegates turned out for the organisation’s event in London on Saturday.

The women who came to the impressive offices of conference sponsor Microsoft, wanted to network, organise, listen and, appropriately for an education conference, learn.

Vivienne Porritt, director of school partnerships at the UCL Institute of Education and one of the seven organisers behind #WomenEd, opened the conference with a plea. Don’t let it turn into just ”a great day out”, she said, but use it as a starting point for setting up regional networks to support aspiring female leaders.

She told the conference about the figures released earlier this year by the Future Leaders Trust, which pointed out that 1,700 female headteachers were “missing” from schools. While 74 per cent of the teaching workforce is female, just 65 per cent of headteachers are women.

But that wasn’t all. We also learned that:

1. It’s not all about childcare. The barriers facing women who aspire to headship are varied and range from “imposter syndrome” – feeling you are not up to the job – to a lack of support within the organisation.

#WomenEd Here is my presentation: https://t.co/CmDvBJ0QpV #impostorsyndrome. Great discussion after needs to be added! Superb audience.

— Summer Turner (@ragazza_inglese) October 3, 2015

2. Many of these issues also apply to some men. And some do not apply to all women.

3. Just because some women have made it into headship, that does not mean that barriers, such as parental responsbilities, do not exist.

Recognising the challenges of teaching as a parent – this one says it all! #WomenEd pic.twitter.com/mzp1Oh0Vhf

— Cathy Savage (@cathy_savage) October 3, 2015

4. Once women do become heads, they may face additional difficulties that male peers do not.

5. Headship is not for everyone, but if you want to go for it, be sure that you’re making that decision for the right reasons.

6. You should ask yourself, if you don’t step up, who will?

If it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you! #WomenEd

— Women Ed Leaders (@WomenEd) October 3, 2015

7. Aspiring leaders should take action towards reaching their goal and set a deadline, but also think about what they need to stop doing in order to focus – just working harder is not the answer.

8. It is important to remember, headship is a great job.

25 yrs in education. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more positive about women shaping the future of education despite current stats #WomenEd

— Rachel Lofthouse (@rmlofthouse) October 3, 2015

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