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Posts Tagged ‘gender’

This is the first in a series of posts that will share some of my findings from my recent doctoral dissertation – How BC School Superintendents Spend Their Time.

For my study, I surveyed all BC school superintendents, collecting demographic data and information on how they spent their time.  Following the data, I wrote more on gender that I had anticipated I would.  The data showed a real gap in the gender of superintendents, and also a difference in the work that male and female superintendents do in the job.

A critical factor in understanding the work of superintendents is who they are and what experience they bring to the job. And while women occupy a higher share of superintendent positions in BC than in the United States, there is still a dramatic difference between the percentage of female superintendents in British Columbia relative to teachers and principals and vice-principals.

In BC, 64% of school superintendents are men, which is lower than the 76% in the United States but far higher than the percentage of male teachers (25%)  and school administrators (40%). While both teachers and administrators are continuing to become more female-dominated professions, the gender mix of the superintendency has stayed quite consistent for at least a decade. Researching for a blog post in 2011, I found that 67% of superintendents were male, so this gender divide is basically unchanged in a decade.  Of the 60 school districts in BC, 21 had female superintendents in the spring of 2021. 

Female superintendents lead some of the smallest districts in BC, 15 of the 21 women head-up districts of 6000 students or fewer. They also lead some of the very largest, as three of the six districts with more than 22,000 students are led by women. However, mid-size school districts seem to lack female leaders, as only three of the 21 districts in size from 6001 – 22,000 students have female superintendents.

In looking at the work of female superintendents, four of the five superintendents in the province that reported spending at least 21 hours a week on educational leadership related issues were women. In American literature on school and district leaders, female leaders were far more likely to have a background in teaching or curriculum. This background may help explain the time female superintendents spend on the topic.

Considering time with their Board, five of the seven BC superintendents that spent at least 21 hours a week on governance were also female. It would be worth further exploration to consider why female superintendents were more likely to spend higher numbers of hours both on curriculum and on governance related issues than their Board.

For the research, all BC school superintendents were surveyed for their level of involvement in 33 management and leadership tasks – everything from purchasing and busing to facilities decisions to interactions with governments.  Superintendents scored their direct involvement on a four point scale.

Female superintendents were slightly more likely to be involved in the 33 leadership and management tasks than male superintendents, with an average score of 2.59 versus 2.45 for males (on a 4-point scale in which a 4.0 would mean they had primary responsibility in all areas). However, with female superintendents occupying the position in many of the province’s smallest districts, the district population could also be the driver, not gender, for their higher level of involvement. It is true that, on average in BC, female superintendents have more direct involvement in leadership and management tasks and are more likely than their male counterparts to spend 21 hours a week or more with their board and on educational leadership activities.

There are real opportunities to understand better how more women can move into the superintendency. Tom Glass, writing for the AASA in 2000 on the US experience, argued, “The two most widely cited reasons for the paucity of women in the superintendency are that women are discouraged from preparing for the superintendency and school boards will not hire them”. It would be useful to understand if American experiences for females aspiring to the superintendency are similar in British Columbia. Further exploration would also be needed to understand the findings that such a high number of female superintendents are the heavy time spenders with boards and on educational leadership.

If our teaching staff and principal and vice-principal pools are becoming increasingly female, it is important for organizations like the those who support superintendents and the Ministry of Education to look at how they can ensure females are supported into the superintendency.  And I was left with other questions, like why are women superintendents in the smallest and largest districts but not in the mid-sized districts?  Why do female superintendents spend more time in a week both with their boards and on curriculum and instruction than their male counterparts?  While not data collected in my study, is there ethnic and racial diversity in the female superintendent pool (for that matter the superintendency in general) in BC?  If the pool of candidates (teachers and administrators) is increasingly female will this change the make-up of the superintendency?

There is a lot of useful American literature looking at gender and the superintendency.  My research has nothing truly profound to say to answer the question why there are not more female superintendents or what we should do about it (that was not within the scope of the research).  It does seem clear that the public dialogue about gender and the superintendency in the United States is one that we should also be having in British Columbia and Canada.

Want to read more?  My full dissertation is available under the research tab.  Next week I will look at the impact of student populations on the work of the superintendent.  

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I had the honour of giving a talk at TEDx WestVancouverED this past Saturday.  What made it even more enjoyable is that I did it with my oldest daughter Liz.  There is likely another post coming about the event and the process once the video is posted, but I wanted to share  the script for our talk along with the slides.  Liz and I both feel strongly about this topic, and think it is a good conversation starter.

As a little background, here is Liz’s bio from the program:

Liz Kennedy is a high school student at McMath Secondary School in Richmond.  She balances her academics with participation in various leadership activities and sports including five school sports:  cross country, volleyball, basketball, track and swimming.   Liz is a committed student, experienced vegetarian and patient older sister to her three younger siblings.

Below are the slides (if you receive this post via email you may need to open the post on the website to see the slides) and our script which each of our parts labeled:

Liz
From a young age I have always played a lot of sports.  From cheer, to swimming, to baseball to basketball, sports have always been and still are a big part of my life. My parents put me in numerous sports starting at a very young age and they continue to be a part of everyday life for my siblings and I.
And when you have 3 siblings, your parents often see if they can have more than one child on the same team, which has meant my brother who is only one year younger than me and I have often played together on the same teams.  This is strange for some people – but I am not quite sure why.  When I run track or swim I always train with boys and girls – so why should baseball or basketball any different.
All kids care about is if you can play.  If you’re good, willing to be competitive and a hard worker boys will play against you just like any other guy. In my over ten years of playing sports, I have never felt boys didn’t want me to play with them because of my gender.

Chris

As long as she has been playing my wife and I have been driving, coaching and cheering from the side.  I know the crazy sports parents talk is for a different time.  We have always wanted our kids to be exposed to a lot of sports.  We grew up in busy homes of arts, culture and athletics and we have wanted the same for our kids.  And while kids don’t seem to care about gender, parents are full of opinions.

Parents seem to get all caught up in gender.  I grew up in a house of boys, so I never really thought about gender and sports.  When I look back, I don’t think I ever played with girls on my soccer, baseball, or hockey teams.  That of course does not make it right then or now.  It is one of the last areas where it seems many feel that the genders should be separated, somehow to protect both genders from a young age.  But I wonder to protect them from what?  And at what expense?

As Liz said,  her playing boys sports was often out of convenience.  With her brother one year younger and sports often spanned two years – so we could have 2 kids at the same place at the same time if they played together.  The responses I received were often surprising.  First, there were those that thought it was a great statement of courage – I never really understood that – it was just kids playing sports.   More concerning,  I have been told a lot of crazy reasons why people are uncomfortable to have girls like Liz playing with their sons.  From worries about “injuries” like she is breakable, to acting as though they are not thinking it themselves but worried about “other” parents, to wanting to argue that this is actually discrimination against boys.  And to be honest, several far worse, that may get dismissed by some as “locker room talk” that I won’t repeat.  And it is not just dads, it is moms as well.  Parents seem to carry their antiquated views from their youth to parenthood.

Liz

Just this past spring a team an all girls team from Spain with players around 13 years old won a 14 team league that featured all boys teams. Even though parents were worried that their little girls might get hurt by the boys, the girls convinced them otherwise. The girls knew that the only way they were going to get better was by playing against the best, which sadly in Spain where girls grass-roots programs receive almost no funding, meant playing in a “boys” league.  Coaches of the other teams questioned the decision as did the referees and the boys parents. The only people who didn’t care? The boys they were playing against. They got good games against a really good team. Everyone was getting better and most importantly everyone was having fun. Contrary to what we see often see girls and boys can have fun playing sports with and against each other.

 And yes, of course we still need girls only sports, because we have particular issues still with girls getting and staying active and sometimes single gender opportunities can make them feel safe. That’s why we should have co-ed and girls only. While parents might not believe it, but girls can be and are just as competitive as boys their age, and often at young ages bigger and stronger. While there may be the odd sport exception, I am not sure why we need any “boys” sports.
When making teams or putting together groups there are so many other ways to organize young people in sports. At young ages girls can be bigger than the boys. So size is definitely one better way to organize teams. You can also easily organize teams by skill so that all kids regardless of gender are appropriately challenged. What about age? what school they go to? and who their friends are? Why do we always jump to sorting by gender when there are so many other options we could explore? In sports like swimming and track, there are ways we can add more mixed gender relays and such that promote gender integration by having girls and boys competing on the same team.
Chris
Our views on gender have evolved quickly.  Since many of us were in school there are dramatic shifts away from stereotypes of boys as the doctors and girls as the nurses, and the men being the ones who work outside the home and women being the ones who are the keepers of the home.  And in the last decade thinking around homosexuality and more recently transgendered persons has rightfully changed thinking from marriage to bathrooms.  Yet, we do still hold to some traditions.
And the argument isn’t that we should not ever consider gender when it comes to sports.  Things do change around puberty, but in most sports there are few reason why kids up until about 12 years of age can’t play together.  It is not to say there are no gender differences but do they really require us to separate them in physical activities. So maybe we are not making the high school basketball team co-ed that doesn’t mean there are not a number of changes we can make.  And in the end sports, in particular youth sports, are about fun and being social, and don’t we want this to be done in an inclusive environment as possible.
We want sports to build strong, confident youth.  We want young boys and girls to recognize that boys and girls are different but rather than girls being “courageous” for playing with boys we have to find ways for this to be the norm.  As Liz said, there is a need for girls sports alongside co-ed sports, we need structures that get more young people active.  Too often girls sports are perceived as “less” than boys sports.  Removing gender tags can assist in tackling some of the sexism that is rampant in sports from young ages through to professionals.  The kids seem to have figured this out, but the adults are slow to change.  Messages young people see send strong statements, some that last a lifetime – and what a powerful message it is that from our very youngest ages, we all can share the same field, court or rink.
Liz 
I am happy to Play Like a Girl. And I will do it proudly, yes, what was seen as insult when my mom was growing up is now often a compliment. It is proof that our world is changing for the better. Youth sports can help speed up the changing. When I am told I throw like a girl, or run like a girl, or play like a girl – I say thank you.
Instead of BOYS soccer, BOYS Baseball, and BOYS hockey – what is there was just soccer, baseball and hockey. Since when does the gender define the sport? This could have a huge impact beyond just these sports.
Moms and Dads running leagues listen to your sons, they don’t care that I am a girl, like me your sons just want to play the sport they love.  Everyone just wants to get better and have a lot of fun. So let’s get on with it.

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I was about to sit down to write a post on some recent observations about the increasing gender gap at teacher leadership events, when the latest edition of Education Canada from the Canadian Education Association landed on my desk.  The headline on their Winter 2010-11 issue reads “Where are the Male Teachers?”

The growing gap between the number of male and female teachers has been well-documented.

In this magazine’s editorial, Paula Dunning comments:

Just as we bemoan the paucity of women in positions of economic and political power, we should bemoan the paucity of men in positions that provide nurturing and guidance for young people of both genders.

In the feature article (which largely addresses the issue of the fear of false accusations against male teachers), Jon Bradley writes:

Male role models are becoming increasingly scarce in Canadian classrooms, and the demographics indicate that the current low numbers will continue to decline. While general statistics are open to flux and are often several years behind reality, it is clear that male teachers in elementary and middle schools will soon be a thing of the past.  Secondary schools fair a tad better, but males are an increasing minority within the teaching ranks at all levels.

So, back to my observations — I was struck, recently, when I quietly snuck into the back of the West Vancouver Teachers’ Association Professional Development training session and realized I was the only male in the room.  In fact, in several different sessions and meetings I have recently attended, I have noticed the male/female gap is quite pronounced.

Some recent observations and data:

In West Vancouver, we have recently started a teacher leadership series open to all teachers K-12;  19 of 24 teachers in our Leading Learning Teacher Leadership Series (K-12) are female.

This year I have become a board member for Learning Forward BC (formerly the Staff Development Council of BC).  This group is one of the primary cross-role professional development organizations in the province;  9 of the 11 board members for Learning Forward BC are female.

Of our professional development representatives in West Vancouver, 26 of the 28 are female (as of last fall).

Of our school-based administrators, 21 of our 34 administrators are female.

Before one concludes that the gender gap is consistent through all aspects of professional development, it is interesting to look online.  What I am seeing there is quite different:

Just prior to Christmas, I compiled a list of the edu-bloggers in BC — teachers, administrators and other professionals who were regularly blogging about K-12 education.  At that point, I found 29 of 36 edu-bloggers were male.

I also did a quick count of those following me on Twitter and the male/female split is exactly even.

This is the first year I have really noticed the gender gap at teacher leadership events.  It has really shifted quite quickly.  Just 15 years ago, it was almost unheard of for female secondary school principals — in many ways we have made huge, positive strides.

As I started to think about this topic, I saw it through the lens of the changing face of leadership, it is really just that the leadership is becoming more reflective of the changing face of our profession.

For interest, here is the provincial 2009-10 gender statistics (teachers):

2009/10 total teachers (FTE) 33053.7: 22508.2 (female),  10545.6 (male).

Here is the link to the full data from the BC Ministry of Education.

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