In the May 29 edition of the ATA News, Shannon Dube wrote an opinion column about the need to review the status of women in our profession. I would like to provide an alternative viewpoint.
Dube presented the fact that women make up 74 per cent of teachers, but less than 50 per cent of principals, superintendents and various ATA executive positions. She then went on to state her belief that “the highest levels of leadership should more accurately reflect the overall membership.” Seems fair, and she progressed to her next point — those women involved in leadership roles are those whose children are grown, or who do not have them. It is the assertion she made afterward that I have trouble with.
She said that women who don’t fall into these categories (meaning women with children) have been “unable to attain” leadership positions because they aren’t encouraged to take on leadership roles, or don’t see other women with children in leadership positions. I question the “unable to obtain” bit.
I think many teachers with children look at the incredible demands placed on their time in a leadership position and conclude the time would be better spent with family or in other areas. Women and men often value different things in life. Whether or not that’s a societal construct or ingrained biologically is another argument entirely. However, the fact remains.
We are a society that has become very focused on equality, and that’s a good thing. Equality of opportunity is vital, and I believe we’ve achieved it. However, opportunity and outcome are different things, and no amount of spending on “status of women” councils in our profession will achieve perfect equality when people make a conscious choice not to take a leadership position professionally.
I actually think it’s demeaning to women in the profession to suggest that they haven’t been making the decisions best for themselves and their families.
One final point. There seems to be a lot of discussion about trying to achieve equality in the profession. But remember that first statistic — 74 per cent of teachers are women. Not that I want it or think it’s needed, but if we’re trying to balance the equation, why aren’t there more scholarships and incentives encouraging men to go into teaching, as there are in the sciences for women? ❚
Luke Peters, social studies, CALM and hunter education, Gus Wetter School, Castor
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