Take Our Lead

I returned to San Francisco late Tuesday evening after an invigorating and inspiring trip to the east coast, where I had been teaching a leadership seminar at Miss Porter’s School. For the past four years, I have joined a group of experienced female heads of school to facilitate workshops for women about the opportunities and challenges associated with being a head of school. The annual seminar is sponsored by the National Association of Principals of Schools for Girls (NAPSG), of which I am a member, and I was a seminar participant in 2002. What an absolute joy it is for me to now stand on the other side of the desk, so to speak, and teach others what I know about preparing for headship and being successful in the role.

At present, approximately 30% of independent schools in the National Association of Independent Schools have women at the helm of the proverbial ship, and a mere 4% of independent schools are led by people of color. That makes me a very rare bird in the flock of school heads. The interesting fact is this: the gender imbalance in headships is not a pipeline issue. There are numerous women—about 70%—currently occupying senior administrative positions in independent schools, and they undoubtedly possess the skills and experience necessary for successful headship. However, many of these well-qualified women choose not to cross the threshold into headship because it is a lifestyle that seems largely incompatible with motherhood and family. Men, on the other hand, tend to step forward boldly into headship, and they do not doubt whether they can do the job effectively while being husbands and/or fathers.

Thus, the other heads of school and I spend our days and nights at Miss Porter’s School counseling women and telling them about our lives and our work; it is our goal to show them by our varied examples that being a head of school is the most intellectually stimulating and most rewarding role to play in an independent school. Yes, we do share stories of our darkest and most difficult days, yet we also share our many successes and strengths as well. I taught the workshops on board governance, organizing and leading a strong leadership team, and the job search process, and all of the heads of school worked closely with our own group of advisees who are in various stages of their independent school careers. We will continue to follow their many accomplishments, answer their questions, provide advice and feedback, and serve as mentors so that they can realize their vast potential.

Today, October 11th, is International Day of the Girl Child, an annual United Nations observance. It is a day to remember that the odds are still stacked against women and that gender inequalities persist between girls and boys, and between women and men. It is not a day to wallow in the abysmal statistics or to point fingers at the oppressors; rather, it is a day to increase our awareness of current realities and to take action. My teaching at Miss Porter’s and my leadership work at Hamlin are my clear and concrete ways of shaking up the status quo. What is your action plan?
At Hamlin, every single day is the day of the girl child, as we seek to create and maintain a learning environment where girls thrive and lead. I encourage all readers of this blog to find ways to inspire your own daughters both today and always. Support girls in our city and around the world who do not have access to education and the vital resources they need to live safe and successful lives. If we have the courage to take a stand, perhaps the girls will take our lead.
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Wanda M. Holland Greene

Wanda M. Holland Greene is currently in her ninth year as Head of School. She is a proud New Yorker and a graduate of Columbia College, receiving her B.A. in English and Psychology. She earned her M.A. in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University. Wanda complements her work as an educator by serving independent schools and as trustee for Columbia University. She is a vocal performer (jazz, gospel, and soul), an avid reader, poet, and writer.

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The Hamlin School educates girls to meet the challenges of their time and inspires them to become extraordinary thinkers and innovators, courageous leaders, and  women of integrity.

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