According to the CSO in 2014/2015 there are 6,291 men and 32,687 women working as teachers in primary level education in Ireland.
Out of that, 1 in 5 men hold the position of principal whereas only 1 in 15 women do.
According to the INTO 2017/2018, 86% of their members are female and 14% are male.
Women make up the bulk of teachers in the Irish education system, yet women are clearly under represented at leadership level.
Why is this?
According to Sally Helgsesen and Marshall Goldsmith in their book “How Women Rise” there are 12 habits that hold us back in the workplace – both women and men – but mainly women!
In the interests of working smarter, we have prioritised these habits and focused on the 5 which we consider to the most applicable to the 86% of us teaching in primary schools.
Expecting Others to Spontaneously Notice and Reward Your Contributions
If I got a Euro for every time I read a post on the Voice for Teachers Facebook page of teachers complaining that their contributions are not being recognised and they have not been thanked or credited or being passed over for promotion for someone who does less than them… my God!
The book warns that if you get entrenched in this type of negative thinking it can be damaging to you personally and in your career – you start to feel like you would be better off somewhere else, where people notice you.
As Doireann Garrihy preaches “Nobody gives a F about you”.
As an adult, and a professional, it is your responsibility to highlight your contributions appropriately – you can’t expect other people to be telepathic or psychic. Schools are busy places. Teachers are busy. Principals are busy. These days, even the students are busy. Nobody is paying attention to what you are doing – if you want them to notice, you have to tell them.
It is up to you to be proactive and to advocate for yourself. So do it.
We have a lot of experts in education – all telling us how we could do our jobs better. They do not all sing from the same hymn sheet, their practical experience and know-how can be questionable; their demands can sometimes be unrealistic and they do not always advocate best-practice approaches.
And yet we get in a panic and worry about what these experts will say to use and how they will judge us. If I had a Euro for everyone who took our Assessment for Learning course (which has been approved and inspected by the Department of Education) and asked: “But will the inspector be okay with this”?
My response is always that this content has been inspected so they should be; and that if they are not (because let’s face it, they are not always consistent) it is YOUR JOB to educate them and engage them in professional dialogue and explain why you are doing things in this way.
What’s the worst that can happen?!
I genuinely worry at how many teachers (usually female) are afraid to enter into professional dialogue and stand up for themselves. The result of overvaluing this expertise and just going along with things you know to be wrong, is usually increased and unnecessary workload – as anyone who has done our AfL course or Work Smarter course will tell you in terms of assessment workload in Ireland and the message being peddled about folders and documentation for formative assessment!
Seriously… don’t overvalue others and undervalue yourself.
Building Rather than Leveraging Relationships
“But I don’t want him / her to think I am using them”… sounds familiar? You may not say this out loud, but you might say it in your head or in your sub-conscious!
The book sites two global research projects which highlighted that women rank highly in motivating and engaging others, building strong teams, negotiating win-wins, empathetic listening and building morale. In short, us females are fantastic relationship builders!
The problem is we often don’t leverage these relationships professionally. We find it difficult to ask for help that will better ourselves in our work. Even though when we leverage a relationship, it is reciprocal and you will do a favour at some stage in return, we shy away from asking for help.
After reading this section, I challenged myself to leverage relationships. I have some work that needs to be done for the next few months – I was going to do it all myself. I knew that would be problematic and potentially reduce the quality. So I asked a number of people from my network to contribute. 99% said yes. The experiment worked! It does not mean I have “used anyone”. I will return the favour.
Ask for help. Job done.
The Disease to Please
The problem of being a chronic pleaser is usually prevalent in women.
Perhaps you agree to do unimportant jobs which waste hours of your time or get stuck with the perpetual moaner in the staff room who sucks the life out of you but you don’t want to seem rude and avoid them?
These are simple examples but they can add up in terms of time and energy.
As women we have been pre-conditioned as girls to be helpful and to do what we can to please others. It’s not surprising that so many of us suffer from this disease. However, as many of us juggle busy day jobs in classroom with demanding home lives and active social lives and other responsibilities – this leads to increasing pressure.
Be aware. Push back. Reclaim your boundaries.
“I just want to ask you a quick question”.
“I just want a minute of your time”.
“I just want to say something”.
Other words such as only, small, little, tiny and quick can also serve as minimisers, used to suggest that you will not use up the valuable time of the other person, with something you have to say.
Or how about…
“Maybe this isn’t important”.
“Please don’t mind me”.
“I’m probably wrong but”.
Sound familiar? Very!
As women we don’t want to be perceived as arrogant and we can often minimise ourselves for that reason.
Let’s try not to.
The full list of habits we need to kick to the curb are:
- Reluctance to Claim Your Achievements
- Expecting Others to Spontaneously Notice and Reward Your Contributions
- Overvaluing Expertise
- Building Rather Than Leveraging Relationships
- Failing to Enlist Allies from Day One
- Putting Your Job Before Your Career
- The Perfection Trap
- The Disease to Please
- Too Much
- Letting Your Radar Distract You.