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2018 named ‘Year of Women in School Leadership’: Strategic framework of research, events and programs announced​

A significant developmental undertaking to specifically improve the occupational opportunities of women working right across Australia’s schools has been announced. The venture will run throughout 2018, named the ‘Year of Women in Leadership’ by the National Excellence in School Leadership Initiative (NESLI), who are managing the project.

Key activities include quantitative and qualitative research on the issue as well as engagement with significant K-12 stakeholders. NESLI will also host events for existing and aspiring women school leaders such as the Women in Schools Leadership Symposiums in various cities.

Female school leaders face a multitude of challenges and barriers in Australian schools. In recent years women have achieved modest progress in attaining school leadership roles but they are still inordinately underrepresented and disadvantaged in gaining these roles. 80% of primary teachers are female but only 57.5% of primary principals are female. 58.4% of secondary teachers are female, yet only 41.7% of secondary principals are female. 

The situation is baffling as the teaching workforce is mostly female, and the role and identity of teachers are often perceived by the broader community as female. 

Various factors are behind the continued underrepresentation of women in school leadership. One factor is that women are less likely to receive recognition and rewards that assist them in gaining promotion than men. 

Another defining reason for the lack of women in school leadership roles is that males are more likely to have an uninterrupted career path (73% for men compared with 46% of women according to the Australian Council for Educational Research), which means males are often at an advantage in gaining promotion. 

Finally, there is a lack of female mentors and role models with whom female teachers can identify and who will encourage and champion their career path. 

In launching the Year of Women in School Leadership, Associate Professor Janet Smith, NESLI’s Program Director and Adjunct Associate Professor of Education at the University of Canberra, said, “I am very excited to see the positive impact that NESLI’s 2018 Year of Women in School Leadership will have on our schools, leaders, teachers and students. We are focused on providing leadership opportunities and support for women in all schools right across Australia.”

Full 2018 Year of Women in School Leadership White Paper

For more information, contact Alistair Young from NESLI on (03) 9270 9032 or

Associate Professor Janet Smith
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