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Leaders must make equality real

The Learning and Skills NetworkWomen's Leadership Network (WLN) report, Voices of women: leadership and gender in the further education sector, probably told us nothing we didn't know already.

In responding to the articles in FE Focus "Half of FE women encounter barriers to career progression" and "Looking after the workforce will be key" (June 18), I reflected on the reality of the experiences of women I have worked with in my career in FE and the responsibility I continue to have to improve opportunities for women.

Much has been written about the "have it all" culture that women are perceived to want. Those I know in FE often want to go forward in their careers and are pulled back by the practicalities and geography of their home lives, precariously balancing the needs of others with their own.

The fact that black and minority ethnic women are more likely to suffer a difficult career path is unsurprising. The voices of 470 respondents is not inconsiderable.

More important, what is to be done about it and who is to do the doing?

The report makes a number of recommendations - they are the usual suspects directing us towards good people management across our organisations. The report also suggests the circulation of a good practice guide, but if those of us in key leadership roles within the Association of Colleges, the 157 Group, the London Capital colleges and the like do not personally translate this into equality and diversity strategy and transformational practice, then the statistics will not change dramatically.

The privilege of being a black female principal is that I can take a view from the bridge. I will use the report productively in my organisation, investigate and translate my experience and others' for the benefit of the sector. working not only with WLN but with those concerned with the positive development of future leaders and managers.

Maxine Room, Principal, Lewisham College.

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