Where Are All of the Female Leaders?

This is a question I have asked myself many times. Thank you Pernille for tackling the issue head on!


Where Are All of the Female Leaders?

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One of the most asked questions I get wherever I go is; how do you do it all?  And by all they mean be a mother, wife, teacher, author, and speaker and still seem somewhat normal.  Not dazed, not frazzled, not crazy.  I wish I had an amazing answer or  a magical formula that would somehow give me more hours in the day and peace of mind to the person asking.  But I always answer honestly; I don’t.  There’s a balance and sometimes that balance shifts one way or another, but I never lose track of what is most important.  Yet, the many times I have been asked that question, I cannot help but wonder; how many times has that same question been asked to my male counterparts?  To those male educators that seem to have a million things going on as well.  Do they get asked how they do it all, or is it just a female question?

I ask, because this post does not have inspiration or answers, but it does have a lot of questions that I am hoping you will discuss with me.  Because I have started to notice that there seems to be a double standard when it comes to female educators in leadership.  That females who lead in some capacity are always assumed to be sacrificing something for that leadership, whether it be time with their husband,  time with their kids, or time from their job.  And that supposed  sacrifice means that we should feel guilty (which trust me I do) and at some point we need to apologize for the fact that we sacrificed something in the first place.  That we are not supposed to sacrifice time with our children to further our own learning.  That we are supposed to become leaders only after our children go to college, not whenever we want to.  (Just to make clear, I have no issue with women who choose to wait until later in life, I do take issue with being told I should wait).  Not while they live at home.  That we tend to say no to opportunities presented to us because we feel bad, and boy, are we good at feeling bad.

So I wonder if this is just a female thing?  Do males get asked how they do it all?  Are they supposed to feel guilty when they leave their families behind to pursue a leadership opportunity?  Or am I biased because I am obviously a female myself.

It is not just because I wonder about the whole notion of feeling guilty when we are away.  More importantly though, I wonder if this guilt is stopping us from speaking up, from going to conferences, from taking leadership positions that we know will swallow more of our time?  Are we creating a barricade to strong female leadership ourselves?  Because it seems like everywhere I go, males are dominating a lot of the leadership roles still.   And it can’t just be me,  I cannot be the only one noticing this.  So I wonder;  where are all of the female educational leaders?

Because I am surrounded by them in my daily life.  I am surrounded by them at my school, in my district, in my network of people.  And yet, the minute we are asked to point out leaders, how many times do our fingers point to males?  How many times when we see a new initiative being pushed out is there few females involved?  How many pictures of leadership meetings feature mostly males?  And what are we doing about it?

So what happens to those women who want to be more than “just” a teacher?  “Just” a principal?  Are there enough opportunities out there for them?  Are we holding ourselves back or is it a societal thing where conference committees, editors, and other people with opportunities tend to gravitate toward males rather than females because there is an assumption that women don’t want these opportunities?  Why in a profession that is mostly female are most leaders still male?  Did we do it to ourselves?  Or am I completely wrong here?

PS:  Kaye and Leah, this one’s for you.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children.  The second edition of my first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.