In her game-changing book, Lean In, Sheryl Sandburg explores the phenomenon of women in all sectors of the workforce ‘leaving before they leave’. Sandburg presents research showing that women choose certain subjects at university; go on to take on certain professional positions, or refuse to apply for promotions or more responsibilities in their twenties and thirties to ensure that their working lives are compatible with their as-of-yet non-existent families. Many women make these – often unconscious – decisions before they even have a boyfriend or know whether they are able to have children, but apparently men do not subject themselves to the same career and family planning.
Following a recent Teach First ambassador roundtable event focusing on the barriers to headship, The MTPT Project have a suspicion that this tendency to ‘leave before they leave’ is the reason that many female teachers do not pursue school leadership positions.
However, there are lots of women out there who not only balance and thrive in headship positions with young families, they also held these roles before and during pregnancy and maternity leave.
There’s nothing like a role model to get you feeling inspired, so over the next few months, we are going to try to source these mother head teachers and find out the practical and attitudinal steps that have allowed them to have their babies, and eat their leadership cakes, too.
Continuing on from Rebecca Cramer’s fantastic starting interview, we now hear from Angela Browne, Principal at The Castle School near Bristol. Angela became pregnant with her second child whilst in post as a head teacher and applied for her second headship whilst pregnant. She negotiated a six month delay on the start date when she was offered the job so that she could spend five months on maternity leave. Her son is now four, and Angela is in her third headship role.
Angela is a member of WomenEd and is so vocal about sharing her headship experiences that she has turned to vlogging to inspire the educational community, but how did she build up the courage to be (a little bit more than) 10% braver to apply for new headships amidst the usual pressures of pregnancy?
Part of my vision has always been to work in a school in which all aspects of my life and work were able to intermingle, grown and flourish. The job that was advertised was my dream job and something I had been working towards for years. It felt like all the stars were aligned and I couldn’t not apply for it. I knew that what would be would be fine and that spirit of adventure helped.”
I have had a dreamy child and some dreamy moments n my job but it has also been incredibly hard to lead through sleep deprivation and mental exhaustion. I think pregnancy created the necessary hubris to get me through the early stages and I learned a greater degree of balance thereafter.“