‘Glass ceiling’ proving tough to crack at headship level

15th January 2016 at 00:00
Women heads smaller payrises
Men promoted from deputy get bigger pay rise, study warns

Female teachers still find it harder to make the final leap to headship, and at secondary level they face a smaller pay rise if they do, new analysis reveals today.

One leading unionist said that the study, based on teachers working full-time, provided evidence of the “pernicious glass ceiling” that women can face in their careers.

Researchers found that between 2010 and 2014, men and women were equally likely to be promoted from classroom teacher to assistant head and from assistant to deputy. But when it came to stepping up to full headship, 33 per cent of men made the leap compared with just 29 per cent of women.

In secondary schools, male deputies who were promoted internally to become headteachers between 2010 and 2014 received £18,012 more whereas women who had done the same earned an average pay rise of £17,200, a difference of £812. For those deputies taking on the headship of a new school, men enjoyed an average pay rise of £17,698, compared with £16,296 for women, a difference of £1,402. The difference was not as great in primary schools.

Dr Rebecca Allen, director of research organisation Education Datalab, who carried out the analysis of government statistics, said: “If we think about rungs that teachers have to move up to become heads, it’s that jump from deputy to headship where there still appears to be a difference between the chances of men making the move compared to women.

“The greater pay rises for men are hard to explain. It may be that men are paid more because they are taking on schools that are more risky prospects but there might also be an element of bargaining.”


‘Unconscious’ bias

Carol Jones, chair of the Leading Women’s Alliance (LWA) and leadership specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The reasons why there are not as many women appointed to headship are complex. It might be that governors have an unconscious bias towards appointing men. Some may think they need ‘hard men’ to be heads, particularly in a tough school. It might be that women are not putting themselves forward.”

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL teaching union, said of the findings: “It is amazing when you consider teaching is overwhelmingly a female profession. The glass ceiling applies in schools and the fact that it’s still there shows how long-lasting and how pernicious it is.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers’ union, added: “Men may be more aggressive in their career choices and career development than women. They go for posts earlier and are more willing to ask for higher pay for that post.”

Data from the Future Leaders Trust last year revealed that if headships reflected the workforce, then 74 per cent of heads would be female, rather than the current 65 per cent.

Dr Allen will present her findings today at a Leading Women to Headship conference in London, organised by the LWA, an initiative between the ASCL, the Future Leaders Trust and other educational organisations.


‘You have to really want it’

Rimah Aasim, headteacher of Worth Valley primary in Keighley, West Yorkshire, says: “I have wanted to be a head since I was 6. I’ve always thought in my career, ‘What do I need to do to get the experience to be a head?’ I used to look at job adverts before becoming a deputy and made sure that I did all those things they wanted before applying for jobs. I’m very driven.

“I think, possibly, there is discrimination – look at the statistics. There are more men, why aren’t there more women heads?

“There are also people who don’t want that ultimate responsibility, and it is very scary. I was told, ‘Don’t be in a rush, because it is a lonely place’. I understand that now.

“But for me, it means making a difference on a really broad scale. A teacher in a class affects 30 children, for the headteacher, it’s a community. You have to really want to do it. I love it. It’s the best job in the world.”

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