A Seat at the Table
We are two passionate principals leading learning in two fabulous schools. We both have had great experiences in our classrooms, one as a music teacher and the other as a special education teacher. We both believe, and still do, that we needed to reach out and help more students, so we took the journey to becoming lead learners of an elementary school and a middle school. The journey for both of us may have been different, but one common thread we are finding is that we are two passionate women in a very male dominated arena of education.
During the wonderful Valentine 2/14/2015 #satchat on Twitter, the topic was about Missing Voice in #EdTech. It was moderated by Rafranz Davis, author of The Missing Voices in Ed Tech: Bringing Diversity Into EdTech. This sparked interest in us, not only with diversity in our students, students of race, but also diversity in leadership and gender. We have presented to many about being connected lead learners, but we feel that as women, we may not be taken seriously. Between the two of us, we have over 20 years of experience as public school leaders, but when in a room mostly dominated by male superintendents and principals, we still do not feel we have earned credibility in different arenas. Some of that could be our fault, yes. But, some of it is likely beyond our control.
Back in 1994, Myra and David Sadker published “Failing at Fairness: How Our School Cheat Girl”. It was required reading for one of the authors of this post as part of a master’s program examining gender bias and provided examples of how girls were treated differently in school settings than boys. What was learned at the end of the master’s program was that bias exists for both males and females. It just looks differently. We expect certain behaviors from one gender than we do from the other. Unfortunately, not enough has changed regarding those biases.
Case in point: We presented to a great bunch of leaders, mostly males, about using social media tools to promote connectivity and professional development. It wasn’t until we used google hangout to bring in two fabulous male educators from our PLN to talk to them about being connected that it kind of clicked. It was clear how males in the room responded more positively to the males on the screen. That could be for a variety of reasons, including gender.
We are both passionate about our work, our schools and love to highlight what we are doing as well as what our kids and staff are doing. We love to “brand” our positives in our schools and love to “show off” what our kids are doing as well as what our teachers are doing with students. But, we’ve both been told we are too energetic, too passionate, too emotional, and to calm down. One of our female colleagues has even been silenced by a male colleague at work with the raising of his hand to signal stop. We wonder if our male colleagues have ever been told that they are too passionate or emotional? Do other males silence each other by raising their hands to signal stop.
For the most part, women are making gains in educational leadership positions, but it is still male dominated. Why is that? Are women viewed as not strong enough? Do fewer women apply for leadership positions? If yes, why is that true? How about within technology and education? Can women be technology leaders? Is there a fear of transparency? Will what I say get me in trouble? Will it impact future possibilities? Is the work that I am asked to do similar to the work my male counterparts are asked to do? In the interest of full disclosure, there’s a fear to be felt in even putting these thoughts to paper. Will others that we work with take these reflections the wrong way? Will these thoughts be misunderstood?
Peter DeWitt recently posted “Where Are All the Women in Educational Leadership?”. The post resonated with many. We are fortunate to consider Peter one of our friends and found his piece indicative of our experience. In it, he asks readers to be more deliberate in their work to include women, hear women and honor women. Dr. DeWitt writes, “Women shouldn’t be chosen based on being women, just like men shouldn’t be chosen because of being a man. But women shouldn’t be ignored or not chosen because they happen to be female either.”
Luckily, many of the males we work with and are connected to personally honor our work and make room for us at the table when we ask. Occasionally, we are invited to sit at their table and when we are, that speaks volumes to the kinds of leaders making room for more.
We wonder about other diversities beyond gender.
Is there a difference among races, ages, or sexual preference?
Are we all being afforded the same opportunities?
We all say we believe in diversity.
But, do our actions demonstrate that?
“No one gets to the corner office by sitting on the side, not at the table, and no one gets the promotion if they don’t think they deserve their success, or they don’t even understand their own success.” – Sheryl Sandberg