Women in Leadership Corner 2.2022
  • NJASA’s Own Initiatives Are Changing the Trend

    Picture a typical class of students in your district. Each of our visions will vary in many respects, but most of us are visualizing desks filled with nearly the same number of male and female students.  Now think about your administrative team. Does your team reflect the composition of your students?

    Women’s History Month reminds us to examine whether we have made significant progress in making the ranks of our district leadership reflect the demographics of our student enrollment. It’s important for the leadership of the educational environment in which these students find themselves to be one in which fairness and equity are reflected not only in the classroom but in the administrative structure of the system. 

    Across the United States, the numbers are discouraging. Nationwide, a paltry 24% of school superintendents are women, while here in New Jersey, NJASA data tell us that 36.5% of the superintendents in our state are female. While we clearly have more work to do, and most assuredly it will be done, what explains the higher percent of women gaining coveted CEO positions in the Garden State?

    The facts argue that the commitment of the leadership and members of NJASA over the past 15 years has made a dramatic difference. Thanks in large part to forward thinking male educators and trailblazing female leaders, we have seen powerful innovations in this area. For years, NJASA and NJSBA conferences have included Women in Leadership sessions which have provided a nurturing context for women looking for a pathway to contribute to their districts from the top. Beginning in 2016, NJASA has jointly sponsored a separate Women’s Leadership Conference with AASA and NJPSA. Each year it has been well attended and has provided networking opportunities for aspiring leaders.

    Also, since 2016, NJASA’s Women in Leadership Committee (WIL) has been a dynamic and ever-changing group with representatives from across the state. Members of this committee have established regional and county groups that encourage conversations and new perspectives among educators from a wide variety of positions at the local level.

    I mentioned earlier that New Jersey has a much better track record than the country as a whole,  but we still have a staggering majority of our teachers who are female and a large majority of our leaders who are male. We all have work to do, and I have two suggestions.

    First, female leaders - please become mentors. Our male colleagues sign up to be trained by NJASA in larger numbers than we do. We have an obligation to help strike a more reflective gender balance in the next generations of leaders.

    I have been fortunate to mentor five educational leaders who will make our education system better for all students. The five come from very different districts - some from large urban areas, others from small regional high school districts. Each one is intelligent and committed to their students. Listening to them, I am optimistic about the future of public education in New Jersey. 

    My second suggestion is addressed to all of our colleagues. Please take a look around your administrative table. If everyone at your table looks like you do, you might be listening in an echo chamber. The conversation is much richer when the leaders of a school district represent in every way possible the students in our classrooms. 

    I would like to end on a positive note. NJASA began in 1940 and has elected a president every year since then. In the first 80 years of NJASA, there were only six female presidents and 74 males in the position. Recent data suggest NJASA’s own initiatives are changing the trend. For the 2021-2022 year, three of NJASA’s officers are female.    

    As Women’s History Month begins, I hope you will join me in committing to make sure all our male and female students are able to see role models who represent them in their schools and districts. Our schools, our staff members, our communities, and indeed our state and nation will long reap the benefits.