In this episode, host Joel Gagne speaks with Dr. Kathy Krendl, former president of Otterbein University, about the importance of women’s leadership positions throughout education. They discuss the forces that continue to limit female opportunities, as well as the ways to move forward.
Joel sets the stage by noting there’s much work to be done: 76% of workers in public education are women, but only 19% ever reach the CEO or superintendent level.
Dr. Krendl says there are several dynamics at play.
“The most obvious one, I think, is that most superintendents are hired by school boards and school boards tend to be pretty conservative and tend to follow a very traditional model in many cases,” she says.
Another factor, Dr. Krendl suggests, is that many women enter education because they’re interested in working with kids and not necessarily in administration. Many superintendents are facing bond issues and levies—in a time when America is aging and many residents don’t have kids in school.
“It is not the sort of direct effect… that you can see in the classroom when you’re working with kids,” she says. “If you entered education because you want to work with kids, do you really want to take on the politics and the headaches of being a school administrator or being a superintendent?”
What’s more, there aren’t many women’s leadership development programs for those who are interested in administrative roles.
Joel shares his experience in a district in northwest Ohio, where the treasurer and superintendent were both women. It was clear the community and all-male board were skeptical of their abilities—because they were women. He had to come out and say that he’s tired of the sexism.
“It’s real,” Joel says.
There’s a culture in public education that’s lagging behind other more progressive realms.
“I see it happening in the corporate world, I see it in the business world, I see it in the areas where we have aspiring young women who want to be planning their careers around advancement and opportunity, to get to those higher-level jobs,” Dr. Krendl says. “I just don’t see it happening very much in public education.”
There is a side of the equation that’s the decision-making body limiting appointments, and another side that is simply the lack of support and mentoring activities that could really help women leverage opportunities.
Dr. Krendl talks about how the #MeToo movement is helping women’s leadership opportunities. And organizations are beginning to think about the fact that women control the majority of consumer spending.
Joel and Dr. Krendl discuss the national Women on Boards movement, and how the goal of women making up 20% of boards by 2020 was achieved, albeit within a very select group of organizations. It will be important to broaden the field and talk about public company boards, plus achieving a greater concentration of women on those boards.
Joel and Dr. Krendl talk about how higher education institutions should approach controversial speaking engagements on campus. She describes how Otterbein is an institution of truth and also a safe haven for thoughts and ideas—even if they’re controversial.
Dr. Krendl closes out the episode by recommending the book Vital Voices: The Power of Women Leading Change Around the World by Alyse Nelson.
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