Although the presenters’ focus was on sharing advice as experienced school heads, some of the questions from the women in the audience helped to outline the larger issues of the under-representation of women in the NAIS heads’ circle. We skirted the discussion of the double standard and the glass ceiling. Participants became animated when sharing stories about the male administrator who gets praise and deep admiration when he brings his baby strapped into a carrier on his chest to a school event, and the female administrator who does this and gets sideways glances of disapproval for not having her priorities straight or for allowing her family life to interfere with her job. I was terribly aware of the heterosexist nature of our talk though, with so many mentions of husbands and marriage. I was grateful for the inclusion of “partner” language at times during the session.
It does feel like something is in the air though…maybe there is growing energy around really looking at interrupting the system at play which has resulted in a preponderance of male heads in our schools. This is definitely a topic in need of a little collective thought. I wonder how NAIS can play a role in this. Maybe some sort of institute for under-represented aspiring heads is in order? It would have to be one which explored and promoted the kind of change necessary to prepare independent schools for this type of leadership shift. I’d like to assume that this work and dialog is already woven into the existing aspiring heads institute at NAIS.