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Helping Women Step In—And Up—to School Leadership

It all started in Australia in 2018.

My publisher flew me over to keynote at a Women in Education conference to substitute for two beloved Australians who were quarantined in the Philippines with some tropical disease.

There, in Brisbane, I got to know Dr. Barb Watterston, now my coauthor on Step In, Step Up: Empowering Women for the School Leadership Journey (Solution Tree, 2019).

I’m in yellow, she’s beside me, as we pose with the rest of the conference faculty—Janelle Wills, Tonia Flanagan, Australian icon Ita Buttrose, and Lyn Sharratt.

The conference highlighted for us how much women need conversations just with other women to understand that they are not alone, that gender barriers indeed still exist, and that education needs more women influencing policy and practice.

We aren’t saying “Replace the men” but that we need a better balance. And that’s what the book is about.

Here’s the big picture of why we wrote this book:

              • To pull together—in a readable form—the statistics and research on where women are and aren’t present in education leadership, the gender barriers to leadership both internal and external. Living halfway around the world from each other (Barb is based in Melbourne, Australia, and I in Minneapolis) meant our perspectives could expand to global realities rather than just our own education systems.
              • To blend the background knowledge needed to help systems change with practical tools and advice. Barb and I couldn’t have been a better match for this. She’s a former school principal, completed her doctoral research on women in leadership, designs and facilitates leadership training all across Australia, and cowrote Women in school leadership: Journeys to success (2010). I’ve developed tools, written books, facilitated training, and served as an executive coach for business, higher education, and schools for the past 25 years.
              • To provide women with ways to identify the next steps they need to take individually to further develop their leadership style and abilities. No one ever fully masters how to lead because who, where, what, and why you’re leading constantly changes. Barb added her knowledge of principalship responsibilities and roles, while I added my knowledge of emotional intelligence, levels of adult development and personality type.
              • To create a journey women could take together. Great things happen when women work together—I’m illustrating by naming Barb’s and my different roles in writing this book. But an even bigger reason to band together is that the status quo is not going to change unless we collectively work toward that change.

So many myths, misinformation, and yes, misogyny, are still holding women back. The book has the research and the facts, not whining or anecdotes without backing. Here’s just a taste of the big message we’re trying to get across.

Can you see how education is out of balance—and how helping more women to step up will actually help both men and women lead from their strengths?

Join us in this journey toward enriching school leadership!



Jane Kise is a consultant and executive coach. The founder of Differentiated Coaching Associates and author of over 20 books, she works with schools and businesses worldwide to help create environments where everyone can flourish.

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