noun. the action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure.
Inclusion is a massive topic. It is also a political and potentially contentious topic. There are layers of issues inter-connected in word which holds so much weight and value. The word encompasses so many different facets of what it means to be inclusive as an individual, an educator, a school and a society.
For this post, I am going to focus on how inclusive edu-twitter is.
Yesterday, I celebrated the women of twitter, the female ‘thought-leaders’ who influence educational discussion and debate on twitter. As I scrutinised the list (always provocative I know) of ‘big hitters’ (a deliberate choice of words as it is often used with reference to the male edu super stars who dominate the headlines) I realised there was a gap appearing.
When we started #WomenEd 5 years ago in April 2015, we scrutinised the male heavy discourse on Twitter, we noticed that articles and books about education had a face that fitted, that of a white, straight male.
As I went through my list of women with ‘big’ twitter followings, I realised that whilst I was celebrating the amplification of female voices, I was also challenging the lack of visible diversity in this group. The female ‘big-hitters’ are visibly not that diverse. I will emphasise the word visible as we often judge whether something is diverse by our visible assumptions and race is prioritised but in the Equalities Act there are 9 protected characteristics and they are not all identifiable by the naked human eye, especially when the lens is the information shared in a twitter profile photo/ bio.
For my exploration I focused on women in education with over 20k (I had to pick a number as an indicator) followers and I spotlighted these 10 women who I follow, admire and have been inspired and empowered by:
- Laura McInerney 57.6k @miss_mcinerney
- Mary Myatt 42.6k @MaryMyatt
- Sue Cowley 35.7k @Sue_Cowley
- Alison Peacock 33.2k @AlisonMPeacock
- Natasha Devon 32.1k @_NatashaDevon
- Jill Berry 30.1k @jillberry102
- Pooky Knightsmith 26.7 @PookyH
- Becky Allen 21.8k @profbeckyallen
- Caroline Spalding 21.7k @MrsSpalding
- Jules Daulby 20.3k @JulesDaulby
I hope I did not unintentionally make anyone feel uncomfortable by being on this ‘list’ as they do cause controversy. I also hope I did not upset anyone as I missed lots of women off who could have been included in this somewhat arbitrary category too who were suggested by others, some of whom I regularly engage with and know quite well:
- Katharine Birbalsingh 49.9k https://twitter.com/Miss_Snuffy
- Daisy Christodoulou 42.2k https://twitter.com/daisychristo
- Amanda Spielman 33.2k https://twitter.com/amanda_spielman
- Debra Kidd 28.2k https://twitter.com/debrakidd
- Me – Hannah Wilson 26k https://twitter.com/Ethical_Leader
- Ceridwen Eccles 23.3k https://twitter.com/Teacherglitter
- Emma Kell 22.9k https://twitter.com/thosethatcan
So although I was celebrating that more female voices and opinions are being shared and heard, and that this has noticeably increased in the last 5 years, I was also critiquing that more diverse female voices and opinions are needed.
I was given challenge by my #PLN as one would assume… What does it matter? What does ‘big-hitter’ even mean? Why 20k? Does number of followers really equate to impact?
I watched the conversation unfold and I would encourage you to read this thread and be curious about the comments from a diverse group of educators: https://twitter.com/Ethical_Leader/status/1255370430891917316?s=20
The bottom line is that it is not that diverse female voices are not present, they are there, I follow some brilliant educators who represent many different backgrounds, experiences and identities, but the bigger questions are: Why are these diverse women not visible? Why are these diverse female voices not being heard?
A number of different arguments and reasons were shared explaining why this might be. A good friend asked me to check how long my ‘top 10’ had been active on twitter and how many tweets they have sent to show their engagement. I know my following has grown over the years, my reach has been extended, as I tweet, blog and speak at events a lot, I am very (some would say too) engaged with my #PLN. I also try to follow everyone back so that each follower feels that their voice, ideas and opinions are important to me too.
I have not come to any solid conclusions, as this was not an exact science and needs someone to properly research it and scrutinise the data available, but I would invite you to consider: How inclusive is your #PLN?
We are influenced and shaped by the people we choose to have in our circles. Our personal, professional and virtual connections impact us consciously and unconsciously. Let’s make sure that our spheres of influence are diverse and inclusive, representative of our communities. Or we will fall prey to ‘group-think’ and we will remain in a bubble.
I would also encourage you to consider that it is hard to think about inclusion without thinking about representation too:
noun. the action of speaking or acting on behalf of someone or the state of being so represented.
I scrutinise representation, or the lack of, a lot. I look at timelines, event line ups, panellists and committees and think: Did they not sense check this? Who thought it was okay to have an all-white line up? Who thought it was okay to have an all-male line-up?
It doesn’t mean that I always get it right, not for want of trying.
I am involved in a number of diversity groups, projects and initiatives. I have been involved in the conversation for several years. I find it staggering that we are not making more progress. So perhaps we need a new list… the diverse voices who should be ‘big-hitters’ on twitter.