• March 2018 OT Main

Women in Leadership Corner
  • Nevertheless She Persisted


    The 2018 theme for Women’s History Month, Nevertheless She Persisted, celebrates inspiring women who refused to be silenced. Among the outstanding honorees is Margaret Dunkle, champion for equal educational opportunities for women. Dunkle was instrumental in the creation of Title IX legislation, provision of insurance for Head Start screenings, and promotion of women in the fields of science and technology.[1]

    Before women were able to fully participate in rigorous educational programs and government, they were often relegated to the role of observer. Sociologists conjecture that this dynamic is why, as a group, women are more empathic, better at reading non- verbal cues and sensing dishonesty. A brain imaging study of nearly 1,000 male and female brains demonstrated that female brains have extensive connections between hemispheres resulting in stronger integration of analytical and intuitive thinking.[2]

    In these challenging times, our students require leaders who can impart empathetic thinking and cultivate supportive relationships among all members of the school community. Women must persist in bringing their areas of great strength into school leadership positions. How can these skills make educational systems better?

    Social Emotional Learning (SEL): An SEL framework guides curricular choices and instructional delivery resulting in healthy, caring schools. SEL classrooms encourage students to develop self-awareness skills and practice responsible decision-making. A 2015 national study found “statistically significant associations between social-emotional skills in kindergarten and key outcomes for young adults years later in education, employment, criminal activity, substance use, and mental health.”[3]

    Community Ties: When the relationships between school leaders and community members are genuine and supportive, students feel comfortable and safe in school. Frequent, varied opportunities for conversations on critical issues in educating and raising children are a hallmark of an emotionally healthy, child-centered community. Leaders must endeavor to create different, topical ways to engage the parents in the education system. Moving beyond the routine schedule of Board meetings and student achievement data presentations to meaningful conversations with students and parents is an essential component of a connected and responsive district.

    Hiring: Rubrics, scripted interview questions, transcript evaluation, and reference checks can assist in determining the qualifications of a candidate. However, our schools need good, caring people. Business builder, Anthony Tjan explains, “Goodness is deeper than competency; it’s an expression of a person’s purpose, nature, and fundamental values. And goodness is more valuable than competency.”[4]  Recognizing and hiring good people who will value children and nurture their development is the best way to strengthen an educational organization.

    Building Teams: Leslie Perlow, the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership at the Harvard Business School, has studied countless organizations and guided them through improvement strategies that increased productivity. Perlow promotes the value of organizations giving employees predictable time off and establishing goals that resonate with the team. Her research also proved that when teams have strong, personal connections they are more likely to achieve success and derive greater satisfaction from their work. In this sleeping with our smartphone era, leaders must ensure that members of their team have consistent, predictable downtime from the emotionally draining, all-consuming issues that are ever present in our schools.[5]

    Even the best decisions for students will be challenged. Persistence through these challenges will result in lasting changes like those that Dunkle brought to education. 


    [1] Dieker, E. (2018, January). Ending Sexism and Sexual Harassment. Women’s History 2018 Gazette. Retrieved from www.nwhp.org

    [2] Ingalhalikar, M. (2014). Sex differences in the structural connectome of the human brain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111 (2), 823-828. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1316909110

    [3] Jones, D. & Greenberg M. & Crowley M. (2015) Early social-emotional functioning and public health: the relationship between kindergarten social competence and future wellness. American Journal of Public Health. 105 (11), 2283-2290. https://doi.org10.2105/AJPH.2015.302630

    [4] Tjan, A. (2017). Good people: The only leadership decision that really matters. New York, NY: Penguin Random House.

    [5] Perlow, L. (2013). Thriving in an overconnected world. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/leslie_perlow_thriving_in_an_overconnected_world.