10% Braver

by Lucy Hemsley @CheltTeacher.


Did you know that 62% of secondary teachers are women — but only 39% of secondary headteachers are female? Or that only 7% of women in education attempt to negotiate their initial salary offer, compared to over half of their male counterparts? Before reading ‘10% Braver’, I certainly didn’t. It is no wonder that the #WomenEd movement has been growing at such a rapid pace: this book is the much-needed next step to implement change and I wholeheartedly recommend this book to every educator, everywhere.

While I feel genuinely blessed to have worked with so many capable and inspiring middle and senior leaders throughout my career, as a female leader in education I have only ever met one female headteacher, which has often made me question whether I really do want to aspire to headship. I connect virtually on Twitter with lots of successful female leaders, but I feel like I am only catching snippets of the conversation, rather than engaging in a wider dialogue. But right from the first page of ‘10% Braver’, in reading the biographies of the contributors, I knew this book was going to offer something really different. Here in print, I felt the dialogue could really begin! In the thirteen authors I found thirteen very real role models who have achieved such amazing things as leaders in a wide variety of educational settings, all but one of whom are women. (This is not to take anything away from the awesome contribution of @ChrisHildrew who champions the #heforshe agenda, detailing ‘what male leaders need to do to actively enable equality in education.’ Indeed, the book is even more powerful thanks to his voice — and it is essential that all voices remain part of #WomenEd.)

Identifying role models as a way of facilitating change is a message that comes across loud and clear in every page of this book, forcing us to think: ‘If they did it, why can’t I?’ Each chapter shines a bright light on a different issue — from flexible working and the gender pay gap to international perspectives and leadership applications — and then details practical strategies to make changes. Throughout, the authors speak with authenticity, wisdom and humility. Each chapter ends with the story of the writer’s own role model (some educational, others historical or political).

But this book is far, far more than its well-written, informed discussion of the current educational landscape and its stories of some awesome female leaders … it is a call to action. As part of the educational community, whatever our gender identity, we can challenge those stark statistics and make educational leadership more equal. As Alison Peacock says in the foreword, by ‘reading this book, inspired to action, you too can become a role model for others.’ I have to agree with Alison: as she has also said, this book has the power to be a total ‘game-changer’. Bring it on!

Lucy is an Associate Assistant Headteacher, Deputy Head of Sixth Form and mother to two-year-old Ernie. She is particularly passionate about equal access for students to higher education and has written about this in a number of educational publications.

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