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Brenda Despontin: Bucking the trend April 14, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Uncategorized.

A recent Businesslink survey found 20% of women entrepreneurs still feel they have to work harder than men to prove themselves in the business world.

Is the same the case for women in education? Do they find it is harder to be appointed to senior management teams in schools than perhaps it should be?

Dr Brenda Despontin, principal of an all-female management team at The British School of Brussels, wrote an interesting piece in the autumn 2009 issue of is Magazine, saying she believed women “have cracked the glass ceiling but not shattered it”.

We have reproduced the first part of Brenda’s article here; click on the link at the bottom to read the rest…

When Jane Austen complained in Northanger Abbey that history was solely about men, with ‘hardly any women at all – very tiresome’, the world was a different place, and it would be comforting to think that the history of our own times will tell a different tale.

Opportunities here in Europe have never been so diverse to facilitate access to the top in any profession. In the UK, girls regularly outperform boys academically, and more females currently enter medical college than males. The picture becomes completely different, however, at consultancy level.

Indeed, positions at the very top still appear elusive to women: from the boardrooms of FTS100 companies to the Front Benches, women remain a significant minority. A quick glance at the proportion of females in governments internationally reflects this startling imbalance. Though Argentina boasts 43% of its senate house as female, in Germany the figure is 18%, in France 16%, in the USA 14% and in the UK, just 19% in the Commons and 17% in the Lords.

In 2006, the UK’s Equal Opportunities Commission claimed it would take another 20 years to achieve gender equality in civil service top management, 40 years to achieve it in the judiciary and up to 200 years (another 40 elections) to achieve an equal gender balance in Parliament.

A survey conducted in 2007 by the Chartered Management Institute revealed the proportion of women in management to be growing, but also that their resignation rates were higher than ever. Pay rises stalled earlier for women at the top, with female managers still earning around £6000pa less than male equivalents.

Women, it seems, have cracked that glass ceiling but not shattered it. Lifestyle choices, which include childcare and the support for elderly relatives, remain huge determinants of many a female career path. We still encounter the challenges epitomised in that oft-quoted example of Ginger Rogers, who did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels.

There are exceptions, of course. At the British School of Brussels, where I am Principal, we appear to buck a trend. It is a co-educational school of 1280, with a larger proportion of boys than girls. 80% of the staff are female, though the figure changes to 50% within the Secondary school teaching staff….

Click here to read the rest of the article in is Magazine



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