Giving Compass’ Take:
• Julia Rafal-Baer shares findings from Chiefs for Change’s report on women in the education system and how to help women break the glass ceiling.
• How can this research inform educaiton funders’ efforts to improve equity and quality in education?
• Learn how women can mentor and support each other.
In schools, we tell all children that they can be anything they want.
It’s a striking irony that the leaders of our school systems — district superintendents and state chiefs — overwhelmingly are white men.
A report that we at Chiefs for Change are releasing takes a hard look at this issue and offers solutions that every school system and leader in America can put into action.
When we committed to developing a prepared, diverse cadre of leader-candidates dedicated to student-centered visions of change, we saw an encouraging number of candidates of color earn top jobs.
Then we looked at how many women had ascended to chief positions and the result was a punch in the gut. In response, we’ve spent the last year developing a leadership program specifically for women in education.
The new report is part of that response.
Women make up the vast majority of the education workforce, and based on our count of systems that our members lead, they remain a majority through the ranks of administration and top leadership teams. Yet they represent only about a third of district superintendents and less than half of state chiefs. For women of color, the numbers are even more troubling.
The inequities hit us hard, not just because of the current landscape but because we found that even among our members, 83 percent of our men were stepping into superintendent searches, compared with just 23 percent of the women.
Here are some key findings:
Transparency: Our school systems need to set public goals for helping women advance, and to be honest about progress toward those goals. Part of that is demanding specifically that search firms and school boards commit to work toward those goals and be transparent about progress.
Intentional preparation and networks: Men have always had strong networks to help them move up. Women need to be seen and supported, through not only mentors but active sponsors. Likewise, school systems must widen leadership searches so they capture and cultivate the talented women working hard at the school and cabinet levels, providing all new chiefs with coaching from seasoned leaders once they are in the roles, and demanding that search firms identify multiple female candidates and candidates of color for every chief search.
Family-friendly policies: Too often, structural roadblocks prevent leaders from pursuing or staying in the superintendent or state chief seat. Addressing this could mean limiting evening and weekend meetings, offering child care and related transportation, helping with spouse/partner job searches, and creating compensation packages that include benefits that explicitly attend to the health and well-being of the chief.
Read the full article about the education system’s glass ceiling by Julia Rafal-Baer at The Hechinger Report.
If you are looking for more articles and resources for North America, take a look at these Giving Compass selections related to impact giving and North America.
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