A Contrarian Questions…

It’s International Women’s Day, or Woman’s Day – there are lots of hashtags on Twitter for it. I have put my contrarian hat on and just have some questions (I’m not going to attempt to answer them, and I have attempted not to load them with commentary – well, not too much). No, they’re not the boring and boorish stuff from eejits asking why there isn’t a Men’s Day (apparently there is, but come on, chaps) nor it is about the pay gap in Education, although probably it should be: it’s just questions arising from having been in professional contexts all my working life where women have been prominent leaders and thinkers and managers, notably in Primary and Early Years education and then in Higher Education in a School of Ed.  I am not commenting here on opportunities for women to lead, or anything like this: I simply  celebrate my time being taught and managed by women who have inspired me.

Last year, very probably my final year in full-time employment, I had a male line manager for the first time since I was a student. It was a nice experience – Roger is a splendid manager, a lovely guy – at a difficult time, so this isn’t a moan about blokes as managers but it does lead me to my first question:

Was it me, or why did I never see having a woman as my boss as an issue?

I learned so much from having a series of headteachers to shape me professionally: Sr Anna in Esh Laude, Leslie Grundy and Elaine Smith at Grandpont. In very different ways they were thoughtful and mindful of my need to learn my trade. When I was a headteacher, I had advisers like Julie Fisher and inspirational figures like Rosemary Peacocke to nudge me, and writers like Tina Bruce and Kathy Sylva.  My next question then:

Should we prepare men coming into Primary and Early Years for some ethos-shocks, or, building on my previous question, might professional development for educators simply take female mentorship and leadership as read? Do men really need their hands holding because they might get told to do something by … a woman?

And finally: well, I continue to work with the School of Education at Brookes, and count its previous and current heads as friends, as well as delighting in working with a strong body of women as well as men. I also work with The Slade Nursery where Carol the head is an inspiration and the staff are a joy. I know umpteen reasons why people press for men to work in Early Years but my last question is

In pressing for men in Early Years are we in danger of seeing the thousands of competent, exciting (female) professionals who are already making a difference to children and families seem somehow lesser mortals?

I said I had a contrarian hat on.


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