Women in Educational Leadership

I was fortunate enough to attend this conference where I listened to both local and international keynote speakers discuss their journeys and challenges in becoming successful leaders. The conference opened with dinner and keynote from Ita Buttrose on the Friday night – Ita told her story and had the audience mesmerised! What an extraordinary woman with a list of accomplishments an arm long. From media editor to business woman, author, community and welfare contributor, host on Studio 10, Australian of the Year and of course mother of two! It was inspiring to listen to her journey, the obstacles she faced and the somewhat humorous strategies she had to use to overcome them. If you ever have an opportunity to listen to her speak I would highly recommend it or perhaps have a read of her biography A Passionate Life.


The weekend conference followed with several other keynotes, opportunities to share personal experiences, listen to stories, analyse leadership styles, discover common challenges and proven techniques for beating them, and above all network with many other educational leaders…many of which, but not all, were women. Below are some of my reflections from the conference which I would be more than happy to unpack further over a coffee & chat should anyone have any questions!
Women need to take DESELECT out of our default. These phrases are often heard from women in leadership roles: accidental leader, good fortune, right place right time, unless you’re already doing it you can’t possibly apply for a job where you might have to do it! I found the 80/20 rule interesting and something that I could relate to personally (interesting upon reflection). Women too often feel they need to be 100% qualified for and job ready for positions before they apply. When in fact, learning on the job is an essential ingredient for leadership. Males don’t let inexperience stop them from applying for positions.

Dr Nancy Badore, former executive of the Ford Motor Company’s Executive Development centre says

“I find it often takes women 10 years longer than men to realise how good they really are. I don’t think you can make a contribution until you’ve moved beyond wondering if you’re good enough. So I try to give them opportunities to discover that, occasions to build their confidence.”

So maybe as educators we need to make a conscious effort to give the girls in our classroom and the young female teachers in our school these opportunities to discover the leadership potential in themselves and the confidence to put themselves forward.

Dr Jane Kise was very interesting and engaging and one of the things that stood out for me from her session was the concept that brain energy is limited and that some activities feed it while other activities deplete it. This brain energy she refers to as our BANDWIDTH  … The will power we use to lead, to strategise, to persevere, to keep our cool, to avoid eating that donut, to work out, to slow down key decisions….it all comes from the same finite source. Use it up and you’re open to temptation and impulse.”

Jane developed a quiz along with Jane Holm that consists of just 18 questions and scores you to fit into one of 3 categories. I took the quiz at the conference and scored really low so my personal bandwidth deficit needs some work…at least I now have an excuse for being tempted with snacks while timetabling late at night!!!

This is a link to the quiz:  Bandwidth/Brain Energy Quiz

See how you score and whether you have an excuse for eating that donut!

Try it. Take inventory of your habits of mind, the distractions you encounter, and the way you fuel your brain.  Remember the old days when a closed door meant, “Do not disturb?” Important work required focus.  Now we interrupt ourselves constantly with emails, cell phones, meetings scheduled by others on our calendars, and a constant news feed. And we wonder why we can’t find time for energizing activities? Check out our tool and start the conversation around getting the Brain Energy/Bandwidth you need!

Differentiated Coaching Associates Blog

Casting the net was discussed as a common leadership style of women compared to men. We use power ‘with’ not ‘over’. We share the power as it leads to empowerment. We are collaborative and bring about change through the power of the collective. Some argued that this could be seen as a weakness.

As women, we see strength in surrounding ourselves with diversity, people who are not like us. We are open to outsiders walking alongside us to redefine ‘ways of leading’. We form a diverse collective to get the work done ….it’s okay to cast a net!

“Gender inequality remains pervasive” Some interesting statistics were presented. One that stood out to me was that women represent 98% of all Australian midwives but male midwives earn $16000 more per year on average!

The problem with stereotypes is that they don’t account for the individual factors, competencies and environment. When we apply them too often or too early, they are damaging to the individual, and at the broader level, they self-reinforcing as the perpetuate ideas about the roles, attributes, and behaviours we associate with people.

The statistics are hard to ignore and the fact is that we still have a way to go when it comes to women in leadership. Most people are consciously aware of the issues so perhaps it is actually our unconscious bias that is the biggest problem that we somehow need to address. One clip that highlights this unconscious bias and stereotyping and is worth having a look at is ‘LIKE A GIRL

Leadership Traits were summarised in this visual and in conclusion, as the picture shows, healthy leadership is in fact a mixture of masculine and feminine traits.

You don’t have to lead like anyone else but believe that you are a great leader and an accomplished woman!

leadership traits


I will end with this thought:

In the future there will be no female leaders…there will just be leaders (Sheryl Sandberg) 

Angela Di Ciocco


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