Our schools are filled with strong women who have dedicated their lives to creating safe educational environments where students can learn and grow. But research shows that many women aren’t obtaining leadership positions in K–12 schools across the U.S.
The study, Benchmarking Women’s Leadership in the United States, examines the role of female leaders in K–12 education and other industries. The research finds that “When averaging the total number of school board members, principals, superintendents and chief state education officers, women comprise 30% nationally. Yet, female teachers comprise an estimated 75% of all teachers nationally. In private schools, 74% of all teachers are female.”
It goes on to state: “While women comprise 30% of all K–12 leaders, they are better represented among the top performing elementary, middle, and high schools in the U.S. Performance was based on how well students were prepared for college, among other factors.”
The findings that women leaders are better represented in high performing schools could be chalked up to leadership styles. In Gender and Leadership Style: A Meta-Analysis, it was found that “women tended to adopt a more democratic or participative style and a less autocratic or directive style than did men.”
The “Benchmarking Women’s Leadership in the United States” study concludes that “Across all sectors in the U.S., women are outperforming men, but are often not earning salaries or obtaining titles that reflect their high performance. The assumption that women are underrepresented in leadership roles because they prefer less demanding or time-consuming positions to accommodate their families or lifestyle is refuted by the research. When women leaders are present, revenue is greater, sales are increased, and impact and reach are more extensive.”
It’s clear that there’s much work to be done in many industries across the U.S., including within private-independent schools. However, women who wish to rise to leadership positions within schools can take steps to help prepare themselves for success.
- Seize opportunities. Step up and take on new challenges or lead new initiatives in your school. Shouldering additional responsibilities shows that you’re capable of expanding and growing for higher positions in the future.
- Find a mentor. Find someone whose advice you trust and whose career you respect. You should feel comfortable with this person and want to let your guard down, share perspectives, ask “silly” questions, and lean on him or her for insight and knowledge that formal education might not have addressed. Let your mentor help you build on your strengths and correct your weaknesses. This guidance can help you grow in your role and prepare you for new duties.
- Network and learn. The best thing you can do is surround yourself with like-minded individuals who share your career aspirations and want to obtain leadership positions in their schools and communities. Attend a workshop or join an online community with other women who want to pursue or have secured authoritative roles. Here you can share insights, strategies, and advice with others who echo your desire to be a school leader.
It’s especially important to learn how to capitalize on your strengths to effectively use power and authority to be influential and inspirational in your school. Prepare yourself properly and rise to the task of school leader with excellence.