for change – getting women into leadership

In 2017 the Independent Education Union of Australia committed to nurture and develop women in our Union through a leadership program, Marit Clayton writes.

This is in line with goals expressed in the broader union movement and succession planning, looking towards the future of our movement and of the IEUA. With women making up around 70% of our membership, the goal is for the IEUA leadership profile to reflect this by connecting women with professional development opportunities and activities. This was the birth of the program IEUA BOLD: Building Our Leadership Development.

What is leadership?

Leadership is the capacity to integrate, motivate and mobilise others. It is not simply positional. It is behavioural. Women can be leaders in different aspects of their lives. Women are leaders in our Union structures, in schools and in our communities. They are leaders in both their personal and professional lives. Drawing on the feedback from the conference and from the survey, the IEUA developed a BOLD Program to assist women in recognising and developing their leadership skills and further enhancing these abilities. Standing together, women can support each other to be bold leaders.

Women and leadership conference

A national conference was held in Canberra in March 2017 bringing together over 100 IEUA women from across the country. Participants focused on exploring the knowledge and skills needed to exercise leadership at various levels of union engagement – workplace, community and beyond.

As well as hearing from several significant political, social and union female leaders, participants were able to discuss strategies which will champion women in leadership and develop BOLD ideas, BOLD actions and BOLD steps. Here is what some of the participants said about the conference:

“I was reminded you don’t need to be at the top to lead; a leader can be wherever you are and whatever you do. Such sound advice!”

“From a number of speakers the message was clear: take the initiative, be active in what you do wherever you are.”

“I was reminded that leadership is not about simply a title or a position. It is
about doing.”

“I am even more impassioned about finding the next generation of young women to get involved.”

“At the beginning I felt like an imposter being there, like I was not the right person to attend. By the end of the conference I felt like there was a reason for all of us to be there.”

Women in leadership survey

In conjunction with the conference a survey was also conducted last year to find out what IEUA women want and need to be BOLD. Here are some of the things they said they want:

  • networks
  • mentoring programs
  • recruitment plans for getting more women members
  • targeted PD for women in our workplaces
  • IEUA women’s committees
  • personal development plans
  • a women’s charter for our Union
  • improved representation of women in our Union structures, and
  • women’s progress groups in our workplaces.

A BOLD action plan

Essential to BOLD union women’s leadership development is an action plan. The IEUA Women and Equity Committee developed a guide to help women construct their own BOLD action plan towards leadership goals. The guide contains a series of questions and actions which aim to assist women to assess their strengths, their interests and to provide a step by step approach to the development of leadership goals. Importantly the guide is designed to be shared with colleagues who are also developing action plans.

I was reminded you don’t need to be at the top to lead; a leader can be wherever you are and whatever you do. Such sound advice!

IEUA BOLD Facebook group

One of the greatest successes of the year was the development of the IEUA Women and Leadership Facebook group, which brought BOLD women together to share ideas and articles. It was exciting to see so many women embrace this space and initiate leadership discussions and share their BOLD actions (and those of other women around the world) through articles and posts.

IEUA BOLD webinars

The IEUA BOLD program is excited by our partnership with the TLN (Teacher Learning Network). IEUA BOLD women came together through TLN to discuss leading and leadership in work and in life. Lisa Heap from the Victorian Trades Hall led a lively discussion on leadership vs management. Participants were challenged to identify how they were already leaders and the ways they could utilise their leadership skills and practices to enhance and lead social change. The webinar format enabled participants from all over the country to come together, and those who were not able to participate could access the webinar at their leisure.

What were the kinds of things that participants committed to change in their practices after this session?

“I will actively pursue opportunities in my current role to demonstrate and develop leadership models.”

“I am more aware of the need to keep in contact with colleagues.”

“I need to create my own leadership philosophy to help me maintain focus and direction.”

“I need to take the initiative more without fear.”

IEUA BOLD Women in Action

Already there are a number of great goals being achieved by IEUA women who have taken steps to develop and enhance their leadership potential. Some of our members share theirs with IE.

“I committed to going on a trek through Nepal to raise money for UN Women and their work in ensuring that all women and girls, no matter where they live, have opportunity, equal access to education, fair and decent employment, are empowered within their community and live free from the fear of violence. Doing this trek is a massive commitment – not only do I have to raise a substantial amount of money, I also have to work to ensure I am fit enough to be able to achieve the trek!”

Caryl, Queensland

“I have enrolled in a Masters in Educational Leadership. It is a long time since I did any study and the prospect of working full time and studying is daunting. However, the support of my colleagues, family and friends and the confidence I have gained through my connection with other BOLD women mean I know I can achieve this.”

Susan, South Australia

“I attended the IEUA 2017 Women’s Forum and heard NSW Supreme Court Justice Julia Lonergan and IEUA member and Giants AFLW captain Amanda Farrugia speak about their experiences as leaders and role models. Such inspiration and so great to be with other BOLD women at this event.”

Giselle, Western Sydney

“I joined the BOLD Facebook group and connected with a fantastic group of BOLD women. We have been sharing photos of ourselves undertaking ‘bold’ actions. I posted a photo of myself with some of the student leaders from the girls’ school where I work, planning International Women’s Day. They came up with some fantastic and inspirational ideas. How great to be working with and nurturing the next generation of bold women!”

Kate, Victoria

IEUA members who are interested in finding out more about the BOLD program and activities in their state should contact their state branch office of the IEUA.

Marit Clayton is an Officer of the IEUA VicTas Branch and is part of the BOLD program in Victoria and Tasmania.