Breaking the Mold: 21st Century Best Practices for Women Leaders

To a packed room filled with 99% women, Amada Torres (NAIS), Susan Goodman (Greensboro Day School- NC), Tekakwitha Pernambuco-img_4258Wise (Seacrest School – CA), and Laura Blackburn Reed (NCAIS) facilitated a workshop that invited conversation and action-planning to “build a deeper understanding of the variables at the intersection of gender and culture in independent schools.”

Amada Torres began the session presenting data to frame the issue of women being underrepresented in headship positions at NAIS Schools. Why has this number remained virtually flat since 2001-2002?   There are many women in independent schools as teachers and in other administrator roles. Why aren’t they becoming Heads? Do they want to become Heads? If not, why not?img_425911.jpg

Here are some notes:

  • Women are underrepresented at every level in corporate America.
  • Good news at Independent Schools is that women are well-represented in all areas other than Head – administrators, instructional support, teachers, division heads.
  • Better chance of females becoming a head at K-12 schools, at all girls schools, and at West Coast schools.
  • Women have fewer opportunities for a mentor/sponsor — a cheerleader for her.

We began unpacking three essential questions through an Affinity Mapping Activity to see if we could come to some understanding, explanation, and plans for the future. What needs to change?

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My group explored the question: How will opportunities available to candidates change when indy school communities commit to creating an equitable hiring process?

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Additional notes:

Where are the opportunities/ roadblocks to creating more female leaders?

  • Put pressure on search firms to change the model.
  • Create a search firm around the work of female leadership.
  • Consider women’s ways to lead! Redefine the head’s roles.
    • Can headship job descriptions be re-written such that women will recognize all of the qualities that they can offer to a headship position?
  • Do women focus on the parts of the job descriptions they do not meet?
  • “Gender-blind” resume review.
  • Bias of committees, access to leadership PD. Do women have the same opportunities to learn about the financial and fundraising aspects at a school?
  • School communities and hiring committees need to be explicit about commitment to diverse candidate pool.
  • Interesting data from NC Schools: 80% of heads are male and they were hired under Board Chairs who will 80% male. How can we break this cycle? Change school culture.

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Some amazing conversations happened in this room filled with people who care deeply about providing equitable leadership opportunities for women.

Final takeaway– we need to keep talking about BREAKING THE MOLD at our schools, within our regional associations, and at NAIS.

Thanks to the presenters for a great session!

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Here is a link to my tweets during the session.

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