A White Paper released by National Excellence in School Leadership Initiative (NESLI) notes that despite recent progress, women continue to be inordinately underrepresented and disadvantaged in educational leadership positions.
In an effort to improve the occupational opportunities for women working across Australia’s schools, NESLI has named 2018 the Year of Women in School Leadership.
According to the White Paper, while 80 per cent of Australia’s primary teachers are female, women only make up 57.5 per cent of primary principals. The disparity carries through to secondary schools where although 58.4 per cent of teachers are female, only 41.7 per cent of principals are women.
NESLI argues women have achieved modest progress over the years in obtaining more school leadership positions.
Its initiative includes research on the issue as well as engagement with significant K-12 stakeholders. It will also host events for existing and aspiring women school leaders, such as the Women in Schools Leadership Symposiums in several cities.
The paper outlines some of the problems faced by women in school leadership, and offers ways in which NESLI can contribute to reducing inequality and providing greater support and education for current and aspiring female school leaders.
Various factors contribute to the underrepresentation of women in school leadership positions. One such is that women are less likely than men to receive recognition and rewards that assist them in gaining promotion.
Another reason is that males are more likely to have an uninterrupted career path, which means males are often at an advantage in gaining promotion. Figures from the Australian Council for Educational Research show 46 per cent of female teacher have an uninterrupted career, compared with 73 per cent of men.
There is also a lack of female mentors and role models with whom female teachers can identify and who can encourage and champion them.
In launching the initiative, Associate Professor Janet Smith, NESLI’s Program Director and Adjunct Associate Professor of Education at the University of Canberra, said she was excited to see the positive impact that NESLI’s 2018 Year of Women in School Leadership will have on schools, leaders, teachers and students.
“We are focused on providing leadership opportunities and support for women in all schools right across Australia,” she said.