Women frequently report that confidence is one of the factors that stops them going for senior positions – and achieving them. They ask of themselves: ‘Can I do the job?’ and ‘Can I do the job and have a life?’ 

WiSH courses significantly boost personal confidence, and create opportunities to unpick and explore real life issues in very practical ways. Importantly we involve women headteachers, who speak openly about how they manage the balance, and approach practical aspects of the role. They are a vital component and their input is always highly rated.

Experience shows that working in single sex groups can be very powerful.  Whilst this does not suit everyone, without men in the group, women have opportunities (and are more likely) to:

  • Address doubts and concerns about the role and their ability to fulfil it
  • Hear from successful women role models who are successfully doing so
  • Reflect and learn in a supportive atmosphere
  • Access peer support and build effective networks
  • Develop flexible, time-effective approaches for their ongoing learning and support
  • Recognise their abilities and potential and develop ways to communicate these.

Women in senior leadership positions often report that because they are so busy with their current job - and life - they have no time to think about the possibility of headship, let alone apply. They cannot imagine any spare capacity and fear that this huge role will demand even more and leave no room for a life outside work. 

Tending to focus on their existing responsibilities rather than career-enhancing actions, women can become part of the often-overlooked ‘quietly effective’ group of talent within schools. In addition, concentrating on the challenges and obstacles, rather than their skills and experience, can lead to hesitation in application; set backs in the process can lead them to give up.  We offer our delegates practical tools and tested strategies for overcoming such obstacles and challenges. 

Women can often undervalue their own abilities; consequently it is common that they will not apply unless certain they can fulfil all the job requirements. Similarly the recruitment process does not always take into account the typical differences between men and women’s career paths or the more female tendency to undersell their achievements and express less confidence.  With many years of working with governing bodies recruiting headteachers and developing leaders we have a wealth of practical suggestions to secure the right and best candidate, and to nurture and grow talent.

Whilst there are many benefits to a collaborative approach to school leadership, which women may well favour, it does prove counter-intuitive when anticipating themselves into the complex role that is headship. Knowing that we are achieving results with others can take the emphasis away from our own strengths, reinforcing self-doubt and undermining our capacity to sell ourselves into the role. Solely focusing on the collegiate approach – which often feels more comfortable- underplays our own leadership achievements, potentially diminishing the recruiting panel’s assessment. We ensure that participants focus on the skill set needed for the role, develop confidence in their abilities and learn practical techniques to communicate that competence with integrity and authenticity during all aspects of the interview process. 

It is our firm belief, supported by the considerable successes we have been privileged to witness, that this approach, coupled with ongoing practical support, will increase the numbers applying for - and achieving - headship positions. 

 
 


Comments from Deputy and Assistant Headteachers

This was an opportunity to discuss women-specific issues with like-minded people. Would we have spoken so openly if men had been in the room? Probably not!”

“The day fills you with confidence – allows you to see you are not alone in your doubt. Everyone feels as I do!”

“We really valued your input and felt that the knowledge and expertise of the facilitators and speakers was inspirational.”

“The research on women’s communication and perceived ability will help me to present myself more confidently and assertively.
There are issues that affect us as women, and specific barriers and challenges - but these can be addressed.”

“We were able to express issues sensitively, with humour and honesty, in a supportive (and non-competitive) context, without fear of judgement.”

“It was great to explore how to achieve work-life balance with a young family and hearing from other women helped me clarify the choices I make.”

“Self-belief! Headship is something I really can achieve. I will control my inner voice, and practise presenting myself confidently as a leader – I am not as nervous as I think I am.