With fantastically talented women accounting for 84.6% of our staff at Northumberland Church of England Academy Trust (NCEAT), we celebrate women’s achievements every day, but as its International Women’s Day, it gives us an excuse to shout about it!

#ChooseToChallenge

The campaign theme this year for International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge. Across the business world, there are many industries where women are continually overlooked for promotions and are paid significantly less for doing the same job as their male colleagues.
Through the #ChooseToChallenge campaign, the International Women’s Day movement hopes to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness against bias and encourage everyone, everywhere to take action for equality.

Equality in Education

While the teaching profession is heavily favoured by women, beyond a certain seniority level, even in the education sector there is evidence of inequality.

In a recent study by Dods D&I – a UK-based provider of educational events centred around the evolving landscape of diversity and inclusion, it stated: “In schools, the teaching profession is overwhelmingly female, and yet male teachers are almost twice as likely to hold leadership positions as their female colleagues.”

The report goes on to explore the reasons behind this disparity in schools in both rate of progression between male and female educators, and the gender pay gap, citing maternity care and related bias as one of the key contributing factors.

Championing equality at NCEAT

At NCEAT, we are fortunate to have so many incredibly talented women on our payroll. Across the Trust, three of our four school principals are women and all of our heads of campus. Within our Central Services team too, the majority of our heads of key operational departments, including finance, HR, data and estates management, are female.

As an employer, we champion equality at every opportunity and see it as our privilege to lead by example to educate the children and young people in our care about diversity and inclusion. Through our connection with the Dioceses of Newcastle and County Durham, as well as our resident Chaplain, our staff and pupils are encouraged to reach their full potential in regard to their academic, physical, moral and spiritual development.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we asked some of the inspiring principals, teachers and heads of department from across the Trust to share their thoughts on what it means to them to be a woman in education/business. Here’s what they had to say…

Sandra Brown, Safeguarding and Compliance Director at NCEA Trust:
“I am proud to be the Safeguarding and Compliance Director for the NCEA trust, helping to ensure that our standards are high and that the safety and welfare of our pupils is paramount in all of our schools.

“In a society which is so forward-thinking in so many respects, it is sad that the lack of knowledge, awareness and acceptance of girls and women’s needs can result in gender stereotyping and other hidden forms of discrimination.

“Through regular training, our staff are well-equipped to handle safeguarding issues across a range of topics, including gender-based discrimination and sexual abuse. While we might not be able to change the world, we have a vital role to play in ensuring that our pupils – whatever their gender – have the knowledge and understanding they need to become well-rounded young people and an asset to our communities.”

Dawn Watson, Assessment and Accreditation Lead at Castle School:
“I have often heard it said that if you are able to play the piano, or happen to be a man, then you will easily get a job in a school and go far in the education sector. I have neither the musical dexterity nor the human anatomy to fit in either of those categories however my career choice has long since ceased and I am living my calling. I never know what joys and challenges each day will bring and as a teacher and leader it’s a balancing act living between comfort and risk, but as John Ortberg said: ‘if you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat’.”

Alison Alden, Director of Finance and Central Services at NCEA Trust:
“I found this quote by Joanne Clancy a while ago and it really resonated with me: ‘Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor each morning, the devil says “Oh no, she’s up”.’

“That’s the kind of woman I want to be and the kind of person – male or female – that I want all of our pupils to be. Sadly, the reality is that we still live in a world where gender can limit your ambition and your progress.
“Changing that is on us all.”

Melanie Hinson, Principal at Bishop’s Primary School:
“My favourite book when I was growing up was Little Women, I just loved the passion and determination of the sisters. Each had their own ambitions, but I was particularly inspired by Jo who strived against the odds to follow her dream of becoming a writer. My dream was to become a teacher and ultimately a Headteacher and I was fortunate to be surrounded by family and friends who were supportive of my passion.

“Part of my role is leading a team of strong female Heads of Campus all of whom juggle many roles within their lives, they are daughters, mothers, partners, friends as well as capable and compassionate school leaders.

“During challenging times, our team is strengthened by the support we give each other. We all share the responsibility to nurture the next generation of women to encourage them to believe in themselves and make the most of any opportunities which may arise. We want them to see that every possibility is open to them, aim for the top and ultimately lead happy and fulfilled lives.”

Gillian Robinson, Primary Teacher at Castle School:
“I am proud to say that at NCEA trust we focus on great teachers, inspirational leaders and the potential of each individual regardless of demographic. This has helped me to see no limits in what is possible in my career development as a woman.

“I want to support others to see their possibilities, and demonstrate strong leadership in order to inspire others regardless of my gender.”

Amy Thompson, Head of Campus at Bishop’s Primary School – William Leech Campus:
“I’m very proud to lead one of our Campuses at Bishop’s Primary School and see the transformation that education can provide for children and their community. In my role I get to work alongside other leaders, both male and female, within the Trust and from other agencies who inspire and support me. Leading a team which makes a difference to children’s lives and their understanding of the world around them is a huge privilege and it’s wonderful when pupils come back to visit to share what they’re doing now thanks to something that we put in place at our Campus.”

Louise Gatti, Subject Lead Art and Design at Duke’s Secondary School:
“To me, to be a woman in education is to have drive, enthusiasm and high levels of commitment. To be able to raise levels of attainment and achievement with all learners and have a dynamic approach to teaching and learning where my lessons are both challenging and fun. To use contemporary practices and artists to inspire learners in the world they live in now; where both men and women can be successful by sharing light and being positive and kind.”

Clare Marriott, Head of Campus at Bishop’s Primary School – Josephine Butler Campus:
“I have always been proud to be a teacher and enjoy my role as Head of Campus, but it is not my qualifications, strength or tenacity that get me through a day, a week, a term, it is the people around me.

“Each and every one of us has qualities and characteristics that we can share. In turn those qualities make up the team and by leading that team I am able to benefit from them all.

“I spin many plates in my day to day life; family friends, staff, children, parents, community. I often think I am going to run out of energy to keep it all going, but with a team around me, I get up and carry on, I have the drive to do my best and I am reminded every day why I chose this profession – to inspire others to learn, to enjoy learning and all it provides.

“As Charlie MacKesy says: ‘Sometimes just getting up and carrying on is brave and magnificent’. I believe everyone working in education is brave and magnificent.”