By Liz Free


Posted on August 27 2019

Published by COBIS on #IWD19

Posted on Liz Free’s blog on March 8 2019

‘Gender inequality is not only a pressing moral and social issue but also a critical economic challenge. If women—who account for half the world’s population—do not achieve their full economic potential, the global economy will suffer.’ (McKinsey 2015)

Last year I was invited to write a chapter exploring international perspectives for the eagerly awaited #WomenEd book, ‘10% Braver: Inspiring Women to Lead Education’, published by Sage this #IWD19 week.  This took me on a fascinating global journey where I was able to work with the #WomenEd community across the world to collate evidence, research, data and experiences of women in education leadership.

What did I learn? Developing leadership capacity for the future global need is the greatest challenge we face and harnessing the potential of the full global workforce is a crucial first-step in preparing for this future. Globally, the education profession is dominated by women (OECD 2013). Over two thirds are women and yet women in education leadership account for less than half of school leadership and those that are in school leadership are paid significantly less (CIS research identified a 23% gender pay gap for international school leaders in 2018). This demonstrates a significant global gender disparity for women in education leadership. 

So… what does this mean and why is it important to increase gender representation from the teaching profession into education leadership?  Apart from the substantial political, social and moral imperative for gender equality that McKinsey identify, we quite simply cannot meet the future and expected demand for education without harnessing the potential for education leadership from within the education workforce. 

The world’s population reached nearly 7.6 billion in mid-2017 (UN 2017). Current estimates indicate that roughly 83 million people are being added to the world’s population every year with the global population being expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100. This is staggering global growth, almost a doubling of population in a century.  This challenges the fundamental principles behind education entitlement and the economic potential that is predicated on educated societies. Do we have the education leadership capacity in place to respond to these increasing needs?

‘Among the greatest challenges facing many countries today are inadequate human capital investment and high unemployment rates among youth.  Some countries are struggling currently to educate and employ their young people, while also anticipating substantial growth in the number of youth. These countries will be doubly challenged in their efforts to assure universal high-quality education, productive employment and decent work for all.’

(UN, 2015)

Education is at the very heart of this conundrum and even before we hit the continued growth issue, we are already struggling to keep up.  The UN assert that ‘education systems of many countries are leaving behind a substantial proportion of the population’. We already have 32 countries where fewer than 80 per cent of 15-24 year olds are literate. Of these 32 countries, 18 are projected to see a more than 40 per cent increase in the number of youth between 2015 and 2030. With urgency, we need to galvanise all the expertise we have within the profession to address the challenges our populations face. This year’s International Women’s Day theme of #BalanceforBetter could not be more aptly timed!

This growth is not only localised to individual countries and continents but can be seen globally in the international school community which transcends national boundaries.  The international school growth has been exceptional, from 2,584 at the turn of the century in 2000 to a predicted 16, 585 by 2028 (ISC Data). 

Data presented by ISC in October 2018

This raises significant challenges for schools across the world and requires both localised responses and a massive international effort to look at how we can increase supply into the profession and how we can ensure we cultivate all of this talent, to not only truly represent the communities that we serve but also to ensure capacity and capability for the future.

We need to fully utilise the potential of our teaching base to ensure a full and representative supply of expertise for education leadership. This starts with harnessing the potential of our women within the profession to ensure we can meet the global education demand. We need to bring together learning and research from across the world. #WomenEd, a grass-roots profession-led movement, is a vehicle that is starting to provide a space and vehicle for this endeavour.  You can join the conversation through twitter #WomenEd.  There are networks across the world with this #IWD also seeing the launch in Europe of @WomenEdDE (Germany) and @WomenEdBeLux (Belgium and Luxembourg).    

Join the conversation at #WomenEd and connect with colleagues across the world as we seek world-class solutions for a truly global profession.

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