Over 75 per cent of Australia’s 276,000 full-time teachers are women, according to ABS figures, yet relatively few will break into senior management positions.
IN WA, where government teachers are considered public sector employees, the department of Education has a gender imbalance in senior ranks with 25 percent of women filling corporate executive and regional directors’ levels – only four of 16 positions are filled by women.
The danger of quick-fix solutions to rectify gender inequity was revealed by the ABC when an attempt at “blind recruitment” in the public sector had to be stopped when the trial backfired against women and ethnic minorities.
The trial, done by several public sector organisations, aimed to remove sexism from selection processes, including female bosses, when gender was removed from applications.
The Commonwealth Government trial was abandoned when it was found that de-identifying candidates reduced the likelihood of women being selected for the shortlist, as adding a woman’s name to a CV made the candidate 2.9 times more likely to be selected.
Professor Michael Hiscox, who oversaw the trial, found that the public sector had a long way to go on gender equality and he recommended the need for more flexible working conditions and training.
The CEO’S Gender Equity Initiative, launched by 18 WA CEOS to break the glass ceiling, focuses on changing culture in schools from an early age.
Chris Sutherland, Chair of the initiative’s Education Group, asked teachers and parents to reverse the trend that saw women in WA earning 26 per cent less than men.
Nationally, the CEO Group said that WA had the lowest female representation on boards and the highest pay gap. It has launched a TV advertising campaign, with school visits, to spread its message.
Sutherland’s recommendations, made at the Gender Equity launch in Government House, asked schools to empower girls to select careers leading towards high-paying occupations and for parents and teachers to stop creating the impression that some jobs were only for boys.
Dr Amanda Bell, principal of the Women’s College in Sydney University and former principal of Brisbane Girls Grammar School, wrote in ABC News that the practice of some independent girls’ school boards to appoint men as principals in all girls’ schools was misguided.
She said women were disadvantaged because there were fewer females than males on independent school boards.
Appointing authorities preferred a male principal as a “safer option” to a female deputy principal and there were more male principals and fewer female principals who could apply for jobs.
Her advice is to have more females appointed to independent school boards and mentor middle management females for CEO positions.
Women needed coaching in the changed role of CEO that involved project management, financial management, administrative functions and risk management that require different skills and mindset.
Karen Pedrick, deputy principal of South Thornlie Primary School and former principal of several remote and city schools in WA said that working in remote schools could be challenging but she was supported by the regional office staff.
“You are out there so you learn to budget, develop plans, manage projects and sharpen your leadership skills,” she said.
Ms Pedrick won praise from the WA Director-general of Education for raising the attendance of Aboriginal students to record levels.
She said that her aim was to mentor Aboriginal women to become leaders and principals, which would need the support of universities, department of education and cultural organisations.
Research in 2017 done by the Mckell Institute, an Australian organisation providing practical research solutions to policy challenges, recommends that agencies should set targets and timeframes for achieving equity with penalties for not meeting targets.
Winchester and Browning, writing in the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, suggest that actions need to be based on research, have the support of senior officers and networks for women.
Dr Karen Edge’s research, from the Institute of Education in London, published in the Guardian, said that women aspiring to be head teachers in schools needed workshops to build their confidence.
Otherwise, schools were going to lose incredibly talented people. Lionel Cranenburgh is the 2015 Positive Behaviours Winner (WA) and Director of Lionel Cranenburgh and Associates, Career Company.