Bergen County Women in Educational Leadership: The Start of Something Wonderful
There are unique experiences women encounter when they enter into leadership roles. Women must learn to navigate differently in all facets of work life, though it seems especially significant in roles of educational administration. Recognizing a need in Bergen County, Dr. Sue DeNobile, Assistant Superintendent of Wood-Ridge Public Schools, and Dr. Michele Robinson, Superintendent of Paramus Public Schools, set out to establish a venue for offering support to women in educational leadership. With the support of the Bergen County Association of School Administrators, Dr. DeNobile and Dr. Robinson established Bergen County Women In Educational Leadership (BCWIEL).
All leaders need, and benefit from, a strong collegial and social network to support them through the day-to-day and the long-term. This holds true for women who have entered an environment which is predominantly male and accustomed to engaging with men in matters related to decision making and operations. The challenges for women leaders are considerably above the expected norm for educational administrators. The journey for female administrators, inclusive of balancing work-life demands, finds women seeking to establish and sustain relationships with those whom may best understand and support shared, or similar, experiences. In so doing, women leaders become best suited to support the growth of their colleagues. Bergen County Women In Educational Leadership aims to make the practice of leading our schools an edifying experience and expand the growth of women represented in administrative roles.
The Bergen County Women In Educational Leadership group held its inaugural meeting in the spring of 2019. During this inaugural event, start up members were surveyed on topics of importance that would best meet their needs for achieving greater success and obtaining support. Those identified needs were then addressed through the establishment of a BCWIEL Steering Committee followed by planning events for the 2019-2020 school year. Between the spring and fall of 2019, BCWIEL has grown to 120 members and is continuing to grow. The interest and enthusiasm among the county’s female leaders is robust and contagious, speaking to its desired need for addressing this role’s distinguishing characteristics. This year’s meetings and events will include methods for establishing work-life balance, mindfulness practices, techniques for navigating politics, a book club, and a ‘friendship corner’ through which colleagues can support one another on more specific needs. BCWIEL has gained the support of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators’ (NJASA) Director of Special Projects, Judith Rattner. Mrs. Rattner, a former school administrator, provides keen awareness of the nuances of women leadership roles. Collectively, BCWIEL’s members provide for a diverse array of leadership roles through which members will support and enhance the monumental and esteemed work being done by women leaders.
BCWIEL provides women in Bergen County with a learning-based networking opportunity. The events create great energy around supporting women in educational leadership, priming them with new and exciting ideas. It provides a safe environment for raising issues that are important to the group and a path for making an impact in their own growth and awareness. Through group networking events and one-to-one partnerships, women leaders in Bergen County are enriching their relationships and equipping themselves with necessary tools as they strive to navigate the realities that women face in educational administration.