A developmental undertaking to specifically improve the occupational opportunities of women working across Australia’s schools has been announced. Named the ‘Year of Women in Leadership’ by the National Excellence in School Leadership Initiative (NESLI), who are managing the project, the venture will run throughout 2018.
Key activities include quantitative and qualitative research on the issue as well as engagement with significant K-12 stakeholders. NESLI will also host events for existing and aspiring women school leaders such as the Women in Schools Leadership Symposiums in various cities.
Female school leaders face a multitude of challenges and barriers in Australian schools. In recent years women have achieved progress in attaining school leadership roles but they are still underrepresented and disadvantaged in gaining these roles. 8o per cent of primary teachers are female but only 57.5 per cent of primary principals are female. 58.4 per cent of secondary teachers are female, while only 41.7 per cent of secondary principals are female.
A defining reason for the lack of women in school leadership roles is that males are more likely to have an uninterrupted career path (73 per cent for men compared with 46 per cent of women according to the Australian Council for Educational Research), which means males are often at an advantage in gaining promotion.
A lack of female mentors and role models with whom female teachers can identify and who will encourage and champion their career path has also been identified.
Assoc Prof Janet Smith, NESLI’s Program Director and Adjunct Associate Professor of Education at the University of Canberra, said, “I am very excited to see the positive impact that NESLI’s 2018 Year of Women in School Leadership will have on our schools, leaders, teachers and students. We are focused on providing leadership opportunities and support for women in all schools right across Australia.”