From my Staffrm post.
It’s been a while since I wrote anything, anywhere. Not out of a lack of interest as I’ve certainly enjoyed seeing what others have shared online. But I’m trying to collect and rebuild myself a little and needed a step back.
I’ve followed most of the #WomenEd posts and discussions, and before I start please don’t think I’m against the movement in any sense or attempting to be disparaging or puerile, but I have to admit to finding a thought keep popping in to my head all the time. That thought: maybe women don’t actually want to be headteachers. I may be being naive. I see the statistics shared, and can see that the proportion of female heads is distinctive and could automatically raise alarms for people wanting to know the reason why. But I also think sometimes we might overthink, and be looking for a sinister cause or barrier that might not actually exist. I would certainly never want someone to hire me because I ticked a box as being female and they needed to fill a quota. I’ve known that happen.
Now I’m not disputing that there will be cases where women across the world have had a door shut, faced discrimination, been steered a certain way, and have felt hindered. But I also think that there may well just be a case for saying that maybe there are fewer women in headteachership because they are happy to stay in other positions. After all, there’s no denying that the psyche and makeup of men and women is different. Same as within each gender there is plenty of difference. These ultimately influence our decisions, our passions, our drives. And maybe, just maybe, more women actually want to remain in the classroom than men. Maybe more women don’t want to lose that face-to-face contact, the relationship building, the daily spine-tingly moments, the feeling of having personally been responsible for a deep change in a child or for their progress. Maybe we want to retain that feeling of closeness to a child that means you get goosebumps knowing that you, yes you, made a child’s day when you gave them the first positive feedback they’ve ever had. Maybe we just want to be up close and personal to the reason we are in teaching: to make a difference. Because at the end of the day, when you move up the ladder that is something that gets sacrificed. I’ve known plenty of SLT who on a regular basis regret the move (especially if they moved up the ladder rapidly) because they miss the buzz of being at the chalkface, they hate having absolutely no time to be creative, they feel burdened by constant data analysis and administration, they don’t get to know children as well, they feel isolated from their colleagues and from students. I’ve had headteachers say to me that being a middle leader is the best job in the school – after all, we are the powerhouses who drive everything through. And I say all this based on having a mum who was a headteacher, a sister who is the personnel manager for an international organisation, friends who are business leaders, and on myself who thinks ‘you know what, you’d miss this’.
I went to an all girls’ school where we were berated if we had the audacity to suggest that our future might include marriage and children since we were told we ‘should be career focused’. Ironically my future doesn’t include the former, and I don’t lack ambition but ambition doesn’t have to mean we keep making every step until a pinnacle…after all then the next step is actually downhill! There’s nothing wrong with ambition meaning being the best darn teacher and leader you can be, at whatever level. This situation is not unique to teaching, there is low representation of women in senior roles across every industry…but is this because they’re held back, or just because they are happier in other roles? I’m not talking about the pay gap by the way, that’s a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned: if you do the same role, have the same responsibility, and have the same qualifications then you should get the same money. Perhaps I am naive, having not experienced being held back, but I actually trust that whatever rung of the ladder I go to next I will be judged as worthy or not based purely on me. Will I ever want to be a head? I don’t think so, I know what I’d miss. Does this make me held back, stereotyped, weak, or unambitious? No way. It makes me, me. My choice. For me, that’s what WomenEd should be about – celebrating and empowering choice.