I like to tell myself that I’m gender-blind when it comes to Tes contributors. It doesn’t matter to me: if the words are golden, the argument is strong, and the article adds to one of the many debates that engulf education, it’s going in.
Seventy-four per cent of the teaching profession is made up by women. Given my statement, you’d expect the gender balance of voices featured in Tes to reflect that.
But you’d be wrong.
I am embarrassed – writing as I am on International Women’s Day 2019 – to share this mea culpa: although we publish some of the highest-profile female education writers out there, the majority of our external contributors are men, according to a recent internal audit.
As Ann Mroz, our editor, explored last year, there are many reasons why this might be. Men are seemingly more likely to promote themselves, possibly, in at least some cases, because of misguided overconfidence; the majority of heads are men, and school leaders disproportionately contribute to Tes; women are still – in 2019! – more likely to bear the brunt of domestic workload and, therefore, have less spare time to write.
And then, of course, there are the practicalities. Tes has a busy newsroom, with constantly breaking stories. We don’t just want to be first to the news, we want to be first to publish what the sector thinks about the news. In this environment, it’s easy to turn to the first person who has put themselves forward as a talking head. That person is, more often than not, a man.
But on a personal level, as head of content, I know these are excuses. I know that being passively gender-blind isn’t enough: we must strive to be proactive about searching out and encouraging female teachers, school leaders and educationalists to share their voices. Like our readers, we must model the behaviour we want to see. In this arena, at least, we must embrace the idea of no excuses.
We must lead in this space, not hide behind tired old clichés. Tes must reflect two key facts: society has made enormous strides forward in gender equality, and nearly three-quarters of teachers – and, therefore, our readers – are women.
I hope that when International Women’s Day 2020 comes around, I can look back on these words and not recognise the Tes it describes. Our report card currently reads “could do better”. We can, and we will.
Ed Dorrell is head of content at Tes