Lies, Damned Lies and #WomenED Statistics Part 1February 2, 2016
People seem aware that I don’t like fallacious arguments. Bad logic winds me up. But that’s not what really gets my goat. If you want to annoy me, get statistics wrong. It’s like the sound of nails scratching a blackboard. And in recent months one movement on education social media has gone all out to get the stats wrong: #WomenED. The organisation is mainly concerned with helping women into leadership positions in education. However, the problem with this aim is that women are already in leadership positions in education. A few months back I took the mickey out of this in a post called What have women ever been allowed to do in the education system? pointing out all the roles in education in which women outnumber men, from headteachers, to secretary of state. Although I haven’t got hold of the data, I have been told by reliable people since then that I could have added school governors and school business managers to the list. So having been set up to deal with a problem that may not exist, those involved in #WomenED have set about the task of either denying or reinterpreting the stats.
Let me start with denial. The following are all from blogs reacting to #WomenED. Please remember that according to the 2014 workforce survey. in state schools 66% of heads and 68% of deputy and assistant heads are women.
We should be shaping the educational agenda and bringing people along with us so that they see that a more representative educational leadership brings about better outcomes for all.
But… educational leadership would be more representative of society if there were fewer women.
Some of our collective goals:… * To achieve equal representation in all areas of education and advance equality for all.
But… equal representation would mean fewer women.
The group’s vision is that headteacher and senior leadership positions should reflect their school’s student and staff bodies.
But… leadership teams would, on average, need fewer women to represent the gender balance of their student body.
But so too does male heavy decision makers in the Department of Education and other influential educational bodies.
But… the secretary of state is a woman. The senior civil servants in the DfE are 48% women, (although that’s 44% for top management posts) which is hardly overwhelmingly male. The main teaching unions and Ofqual are lead by women.
But now I need to take the next step to headship. And to do that I need to find the feminist Governing Body that is prepared to defy the statistics.
But… the statistics show that 66% of appointments are women.
At WomenEd, we’re committed to being the change we want to see so that educational leadership can be more equal and representative of the profession’s diversity.
But… leadership is already more diverse than the profession in terms of gender, and increasing the number of women would make it even less diverse.
Just to be clear, I’m not advocating a reduction in the number of women in educational leadership. I don’t think women are being forced into educational work at gunpoint, or even due to financial insecurity (young women now earn more than young men), so I’m not offended at the profession being female dominated. I’m merely pointing out that educational leadership is already overwhelmingly female and the inevitable result of any attempt to make school leadership more diverse, more representative of society or more equal would be a reduction, not an increase, in the number of women in school leadership.
What usually happens when you point this out to #WomenED partisans (after they thank you profusely for correcting their error) is that some statistics are cherry picked to prove that there is, nevertheless, a shortage of women in school leadership. I will discuss these next time.