Women teachers ‘blighted’ by sexist attitudes

‘Seismic shift’ needed to address employers’ attitudes in schools which are holding back woman teachers in their careers, says union

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Sexist attitudes are holding back women teachers in their careers, stifling their ambition and undermining their achievements, a women’s conference organised by the NASUWT teaching union, has heard.

Nearly a quarter of teachers attending the Women Teachers’ Consultation Conference, in Birmingham this weekend, said sexist attitudes were the factor that most detrimentally affected women teachers’ career development.

From being asked if they were planning to get pregnant by managers, to being belittled for working part time, to being on the end of sexist jokes from pupils and colleagues – teachers at the conference said they faced greater barriers to moving into leadership roles and were being passed over for promotion.

Chris Keates, general secretary (acting) of the NASUWT, said: “A seismic shift in the attitude of employers and effective action by governments is urgently needed to address these unacceptable practices. Is it any wonder there is a crisis in teacher supply when such discrimination is rife?

“Women make up the majority of the teaching profession, yet continue to face discrimination, inequality and sexism in too many workplaces.

“Whether it is the disproportionate number of older women teachers facing competence and capability procedures, women facing hostility and unfair treatment after requesting to work flexibly or the continued under-representation of women in senior leadership roles in schools, it is clear that too many women are facing discrimination because of their gender on a daily basis.”

Hundreds of women teachers from across the country attended the conference where a real-time electronic poll also showed lack of support for wellbeing, and concerns over workload.

Results included: 

•            Only 6 per cent said their school or college was “very effective” in supporting teachers’ mental health and wellbeing, with 43 per cent saying their school was “not effective” and 24 per cent saying their school was no making any attempts to support teachers’ wellbeing

•            58 per cent said excessive workload was the main reason for the teacher recruitment and retention crisis.

•            34 per cent said discriminatory practices against older teachers, such as the misuse of capability proceedures were the issue that most affects older women teachers

•            24 per cent said sexist attitudes were the factor that most detrimentally affected women teachers’ career development.

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