Tag Archives: Diversity

Head recruitment matters; in defence of governors.

Let me state, right at the start, what I am not saying in this post. I am not saying that all governors are aware of unconscious bias and take steps to mitigate this when appointing heads. What I AM saying is that the perceived lack of female heads is a very complex matter and cannot be explained by simply saying governors serving on panels are biased. Unconscious bias on part of governors may be part of the problem but only a very small part, if at all.

Below are some questions I would like you to think about.

1. Looking at number of women serving in schools in 2014

At primary level there were            72.3% heads         86.9% teachers

At secondary level there were        37.1% heads        63.9% teachers

Does the fact that there are fewer female heads in secondary schools mean that the governors serving on head recruitment panels in these schools are subject to greater unconscious bias than those at primary level?

2. Looking at the number of female teachers in both sectors we see there are more female teachers in primary schools than in secondary schools. Governors are usually only involved in appointing SLT members and heads and recruitment of teachers is usually done by heads. So,

a) Are both primary and secondary female heads unconsciously biased against men and hence there aren’t that many male teachers? Also, is this unconscious bias more pronounced at primary level than secondary?

b) Do female heads at secondary level appoint fewer female teachers than their colleagues in primary schools because of the same unconscious bias?

I can probably guess what your answers to the above questions would be. Now, two more questions.

3. How would a newly appointed head feel when they are told that they were appointed because the panel unconsciously favoured them? Now imagine that head is a woman because if we say that panels may suffer from unconscious bias then it follows that some female heads would also have been appointed by such panels. Are we in danger of undermining the confidence of newly appointed heads? Women already suffer from impostor syndrome more than men. How would they react to this?

4. People say that the image of leaders is male and governors often appoint heads in their own image. The NGA survey carried out last term showed that 57% of governors are women so recruitment panels should include women. How do we square this with the assumption that governors appoint in their own image?

Now, like I said at the start, I do realise that some governors may be unconsciously biased but we need valid, reliable evidence that this is the case. So, as governors we would like well designed research into the whole issue of headships which will yield solid, reliable data. If research points to unconscious bias at play we can work with governing bodies to see what can be done about it. We also need to be aware of the fact that there are probably other factors behind women not going for/getting headships as well. Research will help us work out what other factors are. Research will also, hopefully, throw some light on why black men are least likely to be appointed as heads. Research into all of these issues is important for prospective candidates as well as for governors. We are volunteers. We put a lot of effort and time into governance as well as money (governors can claim for expenses but very rarely do). We are committed to providing the best conditions to ensure our students fulfil their potential and one of these conditions is providing the school with strong leadership. It is in our students’, our school’s and staff’s and indeed our own interest that we appoint the best candidate to head our school. As governors we are trained to, indeed it is our job, to deal with, analyse and question hard, solid data. It’s only when we have this data that we will be able to move forward and  have schools where heads  represent our diverse society. Till we get this data, all we are dealing with is conjecture and generalisations which, on one hand blames governors (which may be undeserved) and on the other hand helps no one, least of all the prospective candidates.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Board diversity matters. Is it time to think about a Young people Board?

I came across Peter Crow’s
website the other day. Peter is non-executive Director and a Board advisor. Though mainly concerned with corporate governance, this website may be of interest to school governors too. The following is a guest blog on Peter’s website and is being posted here with his permission. The original can be read here.

Guest blog: Guy Le Péchon (Gouvernance & Structures, France)

Board rejuvenation is often considered and discussed, but statistics on boards member ages show little progress. The general public thinks a board of directors is a set of relatively old people. Common sense and corporate governance approaches lead one to think that the introduction of new ideas from younger generations would surely be a company asset.

Age diversity within a board is unquestionably desirable, but will one or two younger directors be enough? Probably not. In fact, except in exceptional cases (mainly in new technology fields), board members will probably be least 35 years old—hardly ‘young’ any more—by the time they have acquired the experience needed to be a skilled board director. Also, younger leaders often have full-time jobs, so will there be sufficient candidates available anyway? Recruitment of younger directors may be difficult and generally will not be enough to ensure that potential contribution from truly young people will be brought to the boards. How then to proceed?

One approach to solving this problem might to be create a Young People Board, under the leadership of the official board—a ‘shadow cabinet’ of sorts. With slightly different goals, some municipalities use this approach. A Young People Board could be composed of 18 to 25 year old volunteers—a similar number of members as the official board. Recruitment could be for three-year terms (with renewal of one third every year). The aim would be to achieve multi-faceted diversity.

Periodically (say three times per year), the company board would invite the Young People Board to consider a topic discussed by the official board. The Young People Board would meet to debate the topic and develop proposals. Many ideas would emerge as young people naturally consider new technologies; social networks; data protection; ecology; ethics; and, international perspectives. Each year, a half-day meeting would be scheduled with the official board, to receive presentations and debate the topics studies by the Young People Board.

The Young People Board formula would be light, without any significant expenses or time commitment from the official board members. However, the process would enable official board members to be positively confronted with new ideas coming from truly young people. They may even retain some ideas for implementation!

Members of the Young People Board and, indirectly, their friends and relatives, would derive benefits including learning about the company activities, its executives and, importantly, the ‘corporate governance’ world. Through the process, the company may identify young talents for later hiring. The company could use this approach to improve its image, especially among young people.

Many speeches and writings advocate innovation. As one dwells on this, the realisation that innovation applies not only within technology areas, but also in organizational processes and the social domain. The Young People Board is a concrete example of this type of innovation. Is this something your board can support? If so, please contact Guy Lé Pechon at Gouvernance & Structures.

Guest blog: Guy Le Péchon (Gouvernance & Structures, France)