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Blog: In praise of fantastic females….
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21st May 2018

Lisa croppedInspiration is all around us – in newspapers, magazines, on our smartphones and tablets. Rarely a moment goes by without us being persuaded to do or be something and with social media this is often in the form of an idealised image or lifestyle that we’re encouraged to replicate. Whether we admit it or not modelling ourselves on others is part of human nature, it’s how we’ve survived this long and its why parents, teachers and leaders are so important when it comes to role modelling.

When it comes to defining who we are and what we stand for, friends, family and colleagues are a good starting point. All three present plenty of opportunities to review and refine our behaviour, hopefully with the aim of becoming the best version of ourselves.

Beyond our family and friends, we look at films, magazines, public life, and colleagues to find people on whom we can model ourselves and who can inspire us. Given that the top ranks of school leadership still seem stuck at a figure of about 20% for women at the top, it is particularly crucial for young women to find successful women who can be those role models. This is why the new Women in Educational Leadership Hubs are so important and why we are proud to be @womenED @WomenEdNW advocates

If I think about my female friends and colleagues I know that I depend on them. I have a small but perfectly formed group of close friends who I could call on day or night. We genuinely love each other. They have got me through many tough times personally –marriages, babies, bereavements, divorce, injuries, illness and yet sometimes we take these unconditional friendships for granted rather than celebrating them. If we think about the stories we tell our children –male friendships seem to be high profile- let’s take Disney for example with Mowgli and Baloo or Woody and Buzz. Even Winnie the Pooh is spoilt for male mates he only knows one girl Kanga the Kangaroo and she is pretty dull! I think Disney has got better though with positive examples like Moana- a young determined feisty girl who bravely breaks free of tradition- love that film!

If I reflect on my female colleagues now, here I find unconditional positive support and challenge too. I do not just consider my colleagues  to be those in the same school as me (although they are amazing) but the females I’ve worked closely with in other schools or through partner school work or projects too and I’m so lucky to be surrounded by the most fabulous women. Gone are the days of jealously it has been replaced by a genuine joy to see other women ‘getting on well’. I’d do anything to help a colleague out (male or female) and it’s reciprocated regularly. There are amazing men I include in my close knit circle of people I value and trust with anything but this blog isn’t about that! I’m also lucky enough to have a whole other circle of friends through my hobby as a fitness instructor (spinning) we are mainly women and are bonded together through a fun appreciation of what physical activity does for the body and the mind.

Supportive networks don’t happen by accident and friendships are not sustained without hardwork and consistency. This is why the new Women in Educational Leadership Hubs are so important. They bring not only the opportunities to ‘meet’ likeminded supportive women but the structures to sustain this too.  The aim of these hubs are to raise the profile of women in education, provide support for career progression, give high quality advice and high quality coaching and mentoring to encourage more women to step up to leadership.

These new hubs have just been developed and the teaching schools involved are:

If we think about the impact of @womenED @WomenEdNW we know these new hubs can only be a positive thing. WomenEd has 18.9k followers on twitter, over 60 regional leaders, 4500 plus events to date, has collaborated with the DFE on flexible working and has influenced the “women only” NPQH with @Ambition_SL (Ambition School Leadership – an educational charity building a network of school leaders).

Our hub is being jointly led by myself and the wonderful Melanie Wicks @mel_mwicks – Headteacher at Wellacre Academy in Trafford @WellacreAcademy. Wellacre is a strategic partner in our TSA and Mel is an inspirational leader and advocate for Women in Leadership. Mel is doing a fantastic job in continually improving standards and results at Wellacre, with the school now being judged as ‘good’ by Ofsted and the school celebrated another amazing set of GCSE results in 2017 with their students, yet again, achieving significantly higher than boys nationally in English and Maths. Being Headteacher of a boys school gives Mel a unique perspective and ability to influence how boys and men interact with women and girls. We are both strong #Heforshe advocates too.  Mel finds every opportunity to empower staff in her school- there are a huge number of her team who are on our SLE team and who engage in all kinds of school to school support. Often Mel will want her staff to become SLE’s for the value of the development to those  staff – and will also free staff up to help me out with school improvement work at very short notice. This is the value of partnerships and a mutual appreciation of our TSA core values https://allianceforlearning.wordpress.com/2018/04/19/the-value-of-values-and-our-journey-in-defining-ours-aflteachingsch/