Why I won’t be burning my bra!

by Julia Skinner            @TheHeadsOffice

julia1.jpg#WomenEd scared me

There – I’ve said it & even written it down.

This amazing initiative that is championing women in all spheres of life made me nervous.

When the #WomenEd movement first came onto the scene, I was there. I got an invite to a local meeting held in someone’s kitchen & I was feeling very fired up. But…

For some reason, I was unsettled. I felt that this was a group of women that I did not have a real affinity with.

But why was that?

When the first potential members’ lists were created I was on one. I had been considered as someone to be part of a new movement that was about women, leadership & education. I ticked all those boxes! The bulges in my chest showed I was female; I had been a head teacher for over 13 years & was still involved in education having moved into governance. So, what was it that scared me about this exciting vibrant group that offered so much?

A visit to Wightwick Manor a National Trust property near Wolverhampton which has a year-long programme celebrating ‘the many women (& a few men) who worked for gender equality’ has helped me answer that question & has made me 10% braver.

Right from the reception desk you were aware of women’s suffrage. The basket full of badges proclaimed the fight in the worlds of art & politics. Throughout the house were information frames with details of the inequality towards women, not only here in the UK but in Europe & the world. They proudly displayed a ‘Votes for Women’ banner & had the famous sash we have come to associate with women’s fight a century ago.

So what has all this got to do with me & WomenEd I hear you mutter?

Well, it was here that I learnt about the suffragists. No, not suffragettes – suffragists.  They were as passionate about getting the vote for women but sought to do it differently, peacefully ‘based on argument’.

That was my light bulb moment! If I had been around in the 1900s I’m sure I would have been part of the Millicent Fawcett camp rather than the Pankhurst one. ‘In your face’ passion scares me & my instinct is to run & I think that was my first response to WomenEd. They were strong, loud & determined. There will be lots of you reading this who will think what an idiot; what a wuss; just grow a pair. That’s what it is all about – making yourself heard.

But that’s not me. I also now know that women’s suffrage needed both approaches. The revolution got everyone’s attention whilst the evolution brought MPs & people of influence on board. WomenEd is no different. We need people out at the front proclaiming the message & gathering the troops as well as those of us foot soldiers making sure the structures are in place to smooth all the initiatives & events to the public. To support by writing, retweeting & promoting.

It is much like my work with governance. Not everyone can be the chair but all the skills combined can make for vibrant board that has the same focus of improvement for students.

So, I won’t be burning my bra ( have you seen the size of my chest?!) but I will now start to show my head above the parapet because I now understand better the job that has to be done.

If you get the chance, do visit Wightwick Manor near Wolverhampton. It is fascinating & you learn so much.


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