Female school leaders and women aspiring to leadership face a multitude
of challenges and barriers in Australian schools.

While women have achieved modest progress in terms of attaining more leadership positions over recent years, they nevertheless continue to be inordinately underrepresented and disadvantaged in gaining leadership positions in Australia’s schools. Gaining equitable representation and support for women in leadership positions in Australian schools remains a great challenge. Whilst 80.0% of Australia’s primary teachers are female, only 57.5% of primary principals are female; and whilst 58.4% of Australia’s secondary teachers are female, only 41.7% of secondary principals are female*. 

While the causes for this disparity are complex and multifaceted, the situation inevitably results in insufficient leadership opportunities and support for women, and a paucity of role models for female aspiring teacher leaders and students. Finding innovative ways to increase the number of women in key leadership roles in our schools will produce benefits for teachers, students and the overall culture and diversity of the school. 


2018 Year of
women in school leadership


NESLI’s 2018 Year of Women in School Leadership initiative aims to tackle these challenges via a variety of activities and events: 

  • Commissioning targeted quantitative and qualitative research on women’s leadership challenges in schools;
  • Hosting significant events for women leaders and aspiring leaders in schools, such as the forthcoming Australian Schools Leadership Summit;
  • Providing new opportunities for women to participate in NESLI’s women’s leadership programs;
  • Establishing a National Steering Committee to guide NESLI’s 2018 Year of Women in School Leadership initiative,
  • Engaging with significant K-12 stakeholders including government, Catholic and independent schools, education authorities, principal and teacher professional associations and unions;
  • Harnessing NESLI’s experience, capabilities and resources to provide thought leadership on these challenges and solutions.


A white paper is available which provides more context and information about the
2018 Year of Women in School Leadership Initiative. 


*Sourced from Staff in Australia’s Schools 2013, commissioned by the Australian Government Department of Education and conducted by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). 


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Office of the National Director
National Excellence in School Leadership Initiative, NESLI
Level 3, 607 Bourke Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000, Australia


Phone: 1300 938 470
Email: info@NESLI.org
Web: NESLI.org

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