The first female chief constable of Lancashire once told me that when you make a decision you must make the best you can with the best evidence you have; and go with it.
When deciding to single out gender parity in the educational workplace, the best evidence I have is my own experience. To date, I have spent 10 years working in the private sector, 10 in the public and 10 in the third. Things, in many respects, are demonstrably changing for the better in the private sector. However, my own experience bears out a popular expectation; that the public and third sectors lead the way when it comes to gender parity (and equality in general).
Back in the mid ‘90s, ‘Girl Power’ grabbed the headlines, but the real gender parity battle was far from over. As a young female in the private sector I had to leave my role, as making the leap to the (wholly male) management team would have been impossible in that company. Thankfully, this was a catalyst for me to get engaged in learning and development so I have no regrets and hold no grudges.
I do believe education and the third sector demonstrate positive gender equality; my experience in those sectors has been of gender-balanced leadership teams and boards with many females in key roles. So, what has to change for the private sector to follow suit? A good start would be an even more proactive approach to supporting young women’s aspirations. In my leadership area, apprenticeships, we still see too few females in key sectors such as engineering; and the UK still underperforms on females in key science and engineering areas compared to the rest of Europe.
If, like me, you’re lucky enough to spend your working life making a positive difference in education and the public services, you’re in a great position. Celebrate your amazing work; every day you get an opportunity to enable individuals and companies to change their future. Ensure you bring your bags packed with lots of resilience, more than a pinch of good humour and a love of continuous improvement. But while your own workplace may enjoy a good level of gender parity, remember that this may be a new or shaky concept for many of the young people, clients, learners and members of the public you work with. Don’t forget to champion gender parity for them, too. You’re in the best place to do so.