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  • Writer's pictureHayley Yendell

Empowering Female Leaders and Combating Discrimination in Education

In today's progressive world, where equality and inclusivity are championed, it is disheartening to witness instances of discrimination against women in the workplace. At Roots Federation, we firmly believe in empowering women and creating an environment where staff can thrive both personally and professionally. In this blog post, we shed light on the benefits of embracing flexible working arrangements for female leaders and how it has been a force for driving improvement in all the schools in our Federation.


Supporting Staff Returning from Maternity Leave


The journey of motherhood is a remarkable experience, but it often presents challenges for women who seek to balance their professional aspirations with their new role as a parent. Unfortunately, many females encounter unnecessary obstacles when they return to work after maternity leave. At Roots Federations, we understand the importance of creating a nurturing and supportive environment for these women. We ensure that we know what our staff need, whether it is a private space for expressing milk to regular rests away from the session. We offer regular keeping in touch sessions and an induction back to the role. We slowly transition leaders back to their full responsibilities and ensure that we regularly check in with them throughout this phase.


Returning to Leadership Roles After Maternity Leave


We are acutely aware of the treatment of female leaders when they return from maternity leave. Indeed, we have recruited some of our fantastic leaders because previous employers have not allowed them to return to leadership roles due to flexible working requests. It is of paramount importance to us that our staff are not disadvantaged when they return to roles they left, nor overlooked for promotion due to their time away. Leadership potential should be recognised based on skills, qualifications, and dedication, rather than being overshadowed by assumptions about commitment or capability or the notion that leaders need to work full time. Is there any better time manager or multi-tasker than a parent of a young child? Leaving the house with a new-born requires an incredibly high level of organisation and robust, embedded practices and procedures- highly transferrable skills in the educational workplace!


Flexible Working in Leadership


In our pursuit of gender equality, it is essential to acknowledge the unique challenges faced by women in leadership. Flexible working arrangements can prove instrumental in enabling female leaders to strike a balance between their personal and professional responsibilities. Across our three schools we have three senior leader posts; in September these will covered by five female leaders with a further part time leader joining us in the Autumn term. All have at least one child under five, all work flexible hours and/or job share. As a team they offer different skills, strengths and perspectives and are integral in shaping provision through ongoing discussion and evaluation of practice. They lead our teams with commitment and compassion and work above and beyond to ensure that we achieve the ambitions of the Federation; we would not consider working in a different way!


Establishing a Culture of Flexibility


We aim to foster and embrace a culture where flexible working is the norm, rather than the exception. Traditional work structures have often placed limitations on women in leadership roles. By embracing flexible working and job-sharing arrangements, Roots Federations is actively challenging these norms. We actively advertise leadership roles that will be considered either part time or full time with no preference given to either; our focus is getting the right leader. We embrace flexibility by adjusting working hours, provide recorded or remote training, record staff meetings and share information through channels such as Vimeo, Zoom and WhatsApp so that information and recordings can be accessed at a time convenient to our staff and can fit into a busy family life.


By accommodating the diverse needs of female leaders, we create an environment that fosters growth and helps them to thrive. Embracing such a culture, benefits not only the individual but also the organisation as a whole, as it encourages loyalty, productivity, and professionally and personally fulfilled leaders.


Conclusion


At Roots Federations, we firmly stand against the discrimination faced by women in education. By championing the rights and needs of staff, especially when returning from maternity leave, and by advocating for flexible working arrangements, we strive to create a progressive and inclusive environment. It is through such initiatives that we can challenge the discriminatory practices that hinder the progress of women in education and can empower our leaders to overcome barriers, break stereotypes, and flourish both personally and professionally. We are building a brighter and more equitable future for women in education whilst improving outcomes for children. Why is this not happening everywhere?


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