It’s a trying time for women currently in Australian schools. The results of our recent research are in: gender inequity is still holding women back from leadership positions in Australian schools.
In late 2022, Women & Leadership Australia surveyed more than 200 women leaders in Australian public, independent and catholic schools. Download the full report at the end of the article.
While the majority of teachers are women, most leadership positions in schools are still held by men. And our research revealed that gender discrimination, unconscious bias and a lack of flexible work arrangements are keeping women out of leadership positions.
Women from schools right across Australia told us they are unsupported, overlooked and exhausted.
What are the barriers for women in schools?
Women in schools face a number of systemic challenges in their roles. The top three issues reported by respondents were long work hours (67%), being unable to pursue professional development because of other responsibilities (64%) and gender discrimination and bias against women (42%).
Two in five respondents (41%) have experienced barriers or discrimination within a school, because of their gender. Those who had experienced gender discrimination described examples of male tribalism, ageism, gender bias, and racism and stereotypes.
How is women’s wellbeing affected?
Wellbeing levels varied across respondents, with just under a third (28%) reporting very poor or poor wellbeing, a further third (35%) reporting fair wellbeing, and 40% reporting good or excellent wellbeing levels.
Of those who reported poor or very poor levels of wellbeing, the key drivers for this included long work hours (affecting 66% of respondents), conflict at work (affecting 45%), and lack of autonomy at work (affecting 44%).
What does effective support look like?
We asked respondents how leaders at their schools could better support them in the context of current challenges. Many (59%) want consultation by leadership on the issues that affect them. Others would benefit from more time to prepare for lessons (41%), staff events or team building activities (28%) and public recognition of their contribution to the school (20%).
61 respondents provided further comments, addressing workload, staffing, remuneration, help with conflict, targeted professional development opportunities, realistic time allocation, job security, staff recognition, transparency by leadership and flexibility.
How we can support women and leadership teams in schools
At Women & Leadership Australia, we are passionate about supporting women leaders and enhancing inclusive leadership within Australian schools in schools. We have a wealth of experience delivering leadership programs for individuals at all levels, and customised organisation-wide development solutions for schools, school clusters, and education departments around the country.
Fill out your details to download the full report.