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Addressing Racial and Gender Disparities in Education Recruitment and Leadership - visual

Addressing Racial and Gender Disparities in Education Recruitment and Leadership

By Stella Odusola, Senior Consultant

In England, as in many parts of the world, the education sector plays a fundamental role in shaping the future of society. Leaders in this space wield considerable influence not only in guiding the development of their teams but also in shaping the futures of the young people in their care. Yet, when we delve into the intersectionality of race and gender within educational institutions, we unearth profound implications for leadership dynamics and the perpetuation of the status quo. The underrepresentation of Black and global majority leaders in the education space is not new. However, when investigated alongside gender, it presents an even more compelling case for action.

This underrepresentation not only hampers the aspirations of talented individuals but also deprives educational institutions of diverse perspectives and role models crucial for student success. Understanding the root causes and implementing targeted solutions is essential to create a more equitable and inclusive educational landscape.

Root Causes of Underrepresentation:

1. Systemic Bias and Discrimination: Structural barriers rooted in systemic bias and discrimination contribute to the underrepresentation of Black and global majority women in educational leadership roles. Biases in recruitment and promotion processes, often implicit, can hinder the advancement of Black and global majority women despite their qualifications and capabilities. According to data published by the National Foundation for Education Reasearch (NFER), these groups are less likely to receive and accept offers for initial Teacher Training (ITT) compared to their white peers. Consequently, this results in fewer numbers achieving Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).

2. Lack of Mentorship and Support: Black and global majority women in education may face a dearth of mentorship opportunities and support networks, limiting their professional growth and advancement. Without guidance and advocacy, navigating the complexities of the education sector can be challenging, deterring aspiring Black and global majority women educators from pursuing leadership roles. “In England, there are currently no government targets, programmes or funding to improve ethnic diversity in the teaching workforce, in contrast to Scotland and Wales.” NFER.

3. Inadequate Representation in Leadership: The scarcity of Black and global majority women in leadership positions within educational institutions perpetuates a cycle of underrepresentation. Without visible role models and advocates at the helm, aspiring leaders may struggle to envision themselves in leadership roles and aspire to break through the glass ceiling. According to the Department for Education, in 2021, there were around 20,800 headteachers, and over two-thirds (14,026) were women. White female headteachers accounted for 95.7% of all female heads. These figures are significant given by comparison, 70.8% of the working age population in England was white British at the time of the 2021 Census.

with only 4.3 of these being women. 9.2% are Deputy Heads and 12.2% assistant heads. So, not only does this paint a gloomy picture for aspiring leaders, but it also points out the obvious fact that students continue to be underserved by diverse leadership.

Whilst there is no magic wand or overnight solution, leaders must seek out alternative means to make space for Black and global majority staff who themselves aspire to leadership. They can begin by challenging themselves to ensure their teaching and leadership bodies are reflective of the student population. The Department for Education notes that during the academic year 2022/2023, the percentage of pupils from minority ethnic backgrounds is 35.7% across all school types, continuing a trend of increases in recent years, and up from 34.5% in 2021/22. Leaders should avoid hiring solely in their likeness and put in proactive measures to tackle these intersectional disparities.

In collaboration with aspiring leaders, here are some suggested steps to kickstart the process:

1. Addressing Bias in Recruitment and Promotion: Educational institutions must implement robust measures to mitigate bias in recruitment and promotion processes. This includes implementing blind recruitment strategies, establishing diverse hiring panels, and providing unconscious bias training to decision-makers to ensure equitable opportunities for all candidates. One aspiring leader suggested the use of positive action to expedite the progression and promotion.

2. Promoting Mentorship and Professional Development: Investing in mentorship programs and professional development opportunities tailored to the needs of Black and global majority women educators is critical for fostering career advancement. Pairing aspiring Black and global majority women with mentors who can provide guidance, support, and advocacy can help cultivate leadership skills and navigate career obstacles effectively. There are several organisations that offer these services, such as BameEd.

3. Creating Inclusive Leadership Cultures: Educational institutions must prioritise creating inclusive leadership cultures that value and amplify the voices of Black and global majority women educators. This involves fostering environments where diverse perspectives are celebrated, providing opportunities for leadership training and advancement, and actively addressing issues of discrimination and bias.

4. Promoting Visibility and Representation: Increasing the visibility and representation of Black and global majority women in educational leadership roles is essential for inspiring future generations and challenging stereotypes. Educational institutions should actively highlight the achievements and contributions of Black women educators, both within their organisations and in broader educational discourse. ITT providers should consider how these groups can be targeted and supported on their training journeys.

Addressing issues concerning recruitment, retention, and promotion of Black and global majority women requires a multifaceted approach that addresses systemic biases, promotes mentorship and support, fosters inclusive leadership cultures, and promotes visibility and representation. By placing diversity, equity, and inclusion at the forefront of educational leadership, we have the power to cultivate environments where individuals transcend systemic barriers to success. In doing so, they not only fulfil their potential but also become catalysts for progress, driving the advancement of education and society.

Learn more about our work in the educational space here.

In Diverse Company hosted a webinar to discuss this crucial topic of Women in Education Leadership on the 19th of March 2024. You can watch the recording of the event below.