As AISA’s Executive Director for well over a decade, I have observed a notable underrepresentation of women in leadership positions in international schools. While some progress has been made in other fields, the education sector seems to be lagging behind. To address this issue, a programme like AISA’s DEIJ (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice) can be a significant step in the right direction for accelerating women’s representation in leadership positions. One of the key objectives of the programme is to promote gender equality in leadership positions in AISA schools.
Providing more leadership pathways is crucial for women to advance to leadership positions. Grounded in a supportive environment that helps women develop the skills and knowledge required for leadership roles, international schools need to promote a healthy work-life balance, provide mentorship and coaching programmes, and address issues such as gender-based discrimination and harassment in both policy and practice.
Additionally, unconscious biases, particularly during recruitment, can affect decision-making, and it is essential to acknowledge and address them. To achieve this, training Board members and administrators on identifying and addressing their unconscious biases can help ensure that recruitment and retention decisions are made fairly and objectively. International schools should set targets for gender representation and ensure that women are included in the recruitment and selection process. Schools should also consider using gender-neutral language in job descriptions and advertisements.
Schools should identify the current barriers to women’s representation in leadership positions and actively dismantle them. Empowering women is essential to encourage them to take on leadership roles. Providing the necessary resources, training, and support and encouraging women to take risks, make mistakes, and learn from them can help them develop the confidence and skills required for leadership positions.
This process could also involve surveying current and former female employees to understand their experiences and challenges and to encourage them to make suggestions for improvement. Once the barriers have been identified, the board could develop a strategic plan that includes specific goals, targets, and action steps to increase the representation of women in leadership positions. As with any strategic plan, this should be reviewed and revised regularly to ensure progress. To ensure that the plan is implemented effectively, the board should also establish accountability mechanisms such as regular progress reports, benchmarking against other AISA schools, and tying equitable compensation to the diversity and inclusion goals the school sets for itself.
Finally, celebrating successes and highlighting the contributions of women in leadership positions is a key aspect of promoting gender diversity in international schools. When women see other women succeeding in leadership roles, it can inspire them to pursue their own goals and give them the confidence to overcome any obstacles holding them back. When women are recognised for their achievements and positive impact on the school community, it also sends a powerful message that women are valued, and that leadership positions are accessible. Further, highlighting these achievements helps combat the stereotypes and biases that may exist about women’s abilities to lead. It shows that women can be just as effective, if not more so, than their male counterparts and that diversity in leadership can lead to better decision-making and improved outcomes for the school community as a whole.
Written by Dr Peter Bateman, Executive Director of AISA
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