Advancing women's leadership in the education sector

Thu 18 May 2023

Advancing women's leadership in the education sector L-R: Professors Mary Stiasny and Shân Wareing

The glass ceiling faced by aspiring female leaders in the education sector remains a challenge, but breaking through it is still possible. Learn more at Women in Education on 17 October

By Murielle Gonzalez

Gender equity and diversity in leadership positions within the UK education sector remain a pressing issue. Despite progress on this front, women continue to face barriers when it comes to reaching leadership roles. The latest data on the education workforce revealed that as of 2020, there was a smaller difference between roles in primary schools – women made up 85% of the workforce compared with 74% of headteachers – than in secondary schools, where women made up 63% of the workforce, yet they represent 40% of headteachers. The conference Women in Education seeks to provide current and future leaders with the skills needed to correct this imbalance.

The conference will take place in London on 17 October, with a stellar line-up of sector-leading speakers and executive coaches coming together to offer practical advice and strategies that women in the UK education sector can employ to break through the glass ceilings and assume positions of influence.

Leadership toolkit

Understanding why women are underrepresented in senior positions is not only necessary, but crucial to address the cultural and practical obstacles to leadership – and it is the first step to draw actionable strategies that women in the UK education sector can take to overcome barriers, challenge stereotypes, and ascend to leadership positions.

Building self-confidence is also vital for women looking to break through the glass ceiling, and that is a lesson we can take from current role models in the sector – a lesson we heard at Women in Education 2021 from Professor Shân Wareing, by the time Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Northampton. In her presentation, Wareing reflected on what it means to think strategically, having the confidence to aim high and get up when you fall.

She also pointed out the importance of knowing your purpose and understanding your strengths, but also recognising your own worth, skills, and qualifications is key to being a leader. Challenging as it may be, learning to avoid downplaying your achievements or abilities is a must. Embracing opportunities to enhance your confidence through training, workshops, and mentoring has proven to pave the way to achieve this.

A strong professional network

Building a robust professional network is essential for career advancement, and this is a lesson we’ve learned from the presentation of Mary Stiasny, Pro Vice-Chancellor (International) and Chief Executive of the University of London Worldwide. Speaking at Women in Education 2021, she encouraged delegates to seek out mentors who can offer guidance and support as well as help to navigate the complexities of career progression. She also reminded us that cultivating strong relationships and networks can open doors to new opportunities and provide access to key decision-makers.

Stiasny also reflected on the benefits of investing in your professional growth by actively pursuing leadership development opportunities. While it’s true that enrolling in training programmes, workshops, and courses enhances your leadership skills and knowledge, taking on leadership roles in professional organisations or educational initiatives gives you experiences not only enhance your skills but also demonstrate your commitment to leadership and can serve as valuable additions to your resume.

Share your achievements

Women in the education sector often downplay their achievements, contributing to the barriers they face. Building a personal brand and proving yourself as a respected voice in your field can boost your visibility and increase career opportunities – and this is something we’ve learned from Cath Baxter, Professional Voice and Public Speaking Consultant & former Head of Voice at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. For Baxter, preparing for success requires a bit of work on your skills to communicate with impact – from structuring meetings to speaking clearly under pressure.

At Women in Education, you will gain a better understanding of why the glass ceiling faced by aspiring female leaders in the education sector remains a challenge and how breaking through it is possible. Gather your colleagues and join us at the event on 17 October. Register to attend today!

Why attend Women in Education
  • Identify the unique leadership challenges and opportunities facing women in education today
  • Understand when and how gender plays a role in both organisational and personal advancement
  • Learn how successful women negotiate what they need to be effective leaders
  • Gain a deeper understanding of the skills, qualities and attributes needed to be a successful leader
  • Raise the visibility of women as senior leaders in education
  • Explore additional on-demand content on event day and in the weeks after the event
  • Receive video recordings and speaker presentation slides for your reference after the event




Murielle Gonzalez is content strategy manager at Dods-Events. She can be reached on

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