THE BLOG

Women Educators Are On The Rise

Despite women being overrepresented in the teaching profession, school leadership positions are dominated by men.

01/09/2017 03:56 SAST | Updated 01/09/2017 08:51 SAST
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Portrait of a young teacher with her learners in the background

When looking at the South African education system, it's easy to focus on the many challenges it faces. And yet there are many positives that go unnoticed. One of these being South Africa's commitment to the transformation agenda, putting the country ahead of many others when it comes to women in leadership roles in the education space. However, the nation still has a way to go in achieving complete gender transformation within the education sector.

There are certainly positive developments in the South African education space worth noting. I've spent the past few years working abroad in the UAE, in a leadership position in the Middle Eastern arm of an international education company [Taaleem-Edison Learning], which is at the forefront of school improvement.

The challenges that the South African education sector faces are all well known. These include a lack of trained and motivated teachers, buildings and classrooms, clean water, instructional material such as textbooks and IT access. We are also in need of strong leadership with the vision to steer the winds of change. Thankfully, these issues are in the process of being addressed.

I believe that women educators have an important role to play, particularly in leadership roles, where they are currently underrepresented. According to a working paper of the Department of Economics and the Bureau of Economic Research at the University of Stellenbosch, despite women being overrepresented in the teaching profession, school leadership positions are dominated by men.

I urge more women educators to pursue leadership roles, and I'd love to see more women raising their hands and recognising their own leadership potential.

The report notes that in 2012, 71 percent of all teachers [including heads of department and deputy principals] were women, but they held just 36 percent of school principal positions. Women are particularly poorly represented in secondary school principal positions, at only 19 percent in 2012.

I feel that developments are however in progress, and I'd attribute my own career path as evidence of this. As Regional Head at Curro Holdings, I provide support to the schools within the Academy and Meridian models and give direction as to how schools within these models should operate and develop to improve their standards of education and service.

A decade ago, it would be almost unthinkable that this position would be filled by a woman. We are ahead of many other countries in this regard. In the UAE, my biggest challenge was working in an all-male school. Due to cultural stereotypes, the staff found it very hard to follow instructions from a female leader. I would often end up frustrated and achieve nothing in terms of educational advancement. In South Africa, I have the opportunity to make a tangible impact.

I'd say that most women bring powerful empathetic traits to the education table, allowing them to be more in tune with learners' needs. Their decisions and actions often stem from areas of compassion and care enabling learners to see most female educators as 'motherly'. I urge more women educators to pursue leadership roles, and I'd love to see more women raising their hands and recognising their own leadership potential. From one woman to another, we have to motivate, inspire and uplift each other in every way.