#WomenEd is celebrating 5 years of being on an online community and on Twitter today. We have held an annual unconference each October in 2015 (London), 2016 (Reading), 2017 (Sheffield), 2018 (Burton on Trent) and 2019 (Sheffield). So I am going to reflect in 5s on some of the things I have learned and gained from being part of this fabulous community. It seems like a distant memory since we sat down to pen the #WomenEd vision, values and mission statement and Pen Mendonca created this graphic to capture them.
5 Reflective Questions:
Who knew in April 2015 what we were creating as we chatted on StaffRm about Gender Equality? Who knew in May 2015 as 7 of us met for a cup of tea at the Hilton in Bracknell the scale of the community we would co-create? Who knew as we tweeted out in June 2015 that Microsoft would partner with us and host our launch event? Who knew in October 2015 what a special space we were going to create for voices to be heard and stories to be shared? Who knew 5 years on how much the community would collectively achieve and supportive they would be of one another?
5 Fond Memories:
My last 5 years have been punctuated by so many events and gatherings it is hard to pick just 5 but here goes: our 1st Unconference will always be special as it was the first time the community came together and we got to hear Sue Cowley sing. The residential I co-organised with Kristian Still gave us the opportunity to eat, drink and have longer to connect and talk. Sharing my journey at Annemarie Williams’ Leicester #LeadMeet was a turning point for me in sharing and owning my own story. Organising Breaking the Mould and curating an amazing line up of phenomenal women who each shared how they had create a woman shaped mould, is still one of my favourite events to date. Co-launching #WomenEd Canada in the Rockies with Carol Campbell who got the whole conference, men and women included, to do the Power Pose was an exhilirating few days in the mountains with global leaders. Writing the first chapter for our first collective voice book makes some of the dream-like memories seem more real!
5 Wise Women:
I have met so many people through #WomenEd it is hard to spotlight just 5 but I feel very lucky to have connected with people who have helped me navigate the last 5 years. I had a twitter crush on Jill Berry before I first met her at #ResearchEd York, she has been a central part of #WomenEd since the beginning and has been one of my guiding lights through tricky waters, she has since become a friend and I enjoy our 3 way chats with Shirley Drummond which are always punctuated with Prosecco and giggles. I met Carol Jones at the first unconference, and I joined the Leading Women’s Alliance events that she and others created, we were reconnected on my Ambition School Leadership NPQH residential and spent a hilarious night drinking wine and talking deeply into the early hours about life, she has been a friend and someone who checks in on my regularly ever since. I also met Karen Giles through my NPQH, she was one of our impressive facilitators, but her quiet, graceful energy struck me. We are opposites in many ways, she is the Yin to my Yang, but we have a firm friendship based on mutual respect and understanding, we challenge each other with kindness. Annemarie Williams and Kathryn Morgan, come as one, as they are my ‘wing women’. Annemarie and I met at the very first event, and our friendship has grown over the years, it has taken us to Barcelona, Helsinki and Norfolk on girly holidays. I met Kathryn on a hilarious train trip with Bukky and Pran on the way back from the ShapingCPD event in Cambridge organised by IRIS. The 3 of us had a lovely trip to The Gower together last May half-term, and Kathryn and I shared our Action Aid adventure to Mozambique. Angie Browne has become a firm friend since we met at #WomenEd Bristol and were introduced by a mutual friend. True to her word she has nourished me with our soul-sister friendship.
5 Doors That Have Been Opened:
I am not often star struck but meeting some of my heroes and sheroes over the last few years has definitely been a highlight. Sitting on a panel with Pasi Sahlberg and going to Sheryl Sandberg’s house for drinks in the garden have to be up there in memorable moments. Through my connections with LeanIn, I have travelled to San Francisco and met phenomenal women globally who are doing amazing work in both their communities and their corporations. Without joining twitter, starting to blog and founding #WomenEd I would not have found myself at the House of Commons, House of Lords, the DfE, meeting Nick Gibb and Nick Clegg. Presenting at Middlesex University in Dubai on being a values-led leader, followed by drinks with Twitter friends and a visit to the Happiness Centre in the middle of a desert would not have happened without #WomenEd connections. Collaborating with Kate Chhatwal and Melanie Renowden on the initiation of a Women-only #NPQH pathway and being on the design team for the Ambition programme brought me a lot of joy. Each time I have resigned from a job, I have been supported by my network and offered free coaching to support me, each time another door has been opened and I have been invited in to a new opportunity – I have now made that leap of faith and opened the door to independently working on my passion projects.
I have learned a lot about myself, about others, about the community, about education and about life through my connections with #WomenEd over the last 5 years. Our #10%Braver has to be the first of the takeaways, as it is so simple yet so powerful in nudging us out of our comfort zones. Our follow up to that #10%Prouder is of equal importance and feeds into the Google workshops I am now facilitating for #IamRemarkable, as we must own our accomplishments and learn the skills to self-promote our impact. I have strengthened my authenticity through #WomenEd as I have been empowered to lead as me. I have found my voice and use it regularly to articulate the challenges but to also source the solutions which we an all benefit from. I have reflected lots of the external glass ceiling and the barriers we face, but also on the internal glass ceiling and the obstacles we put in our own path.
5 Things We Still Need to Challenge:
In 5 years much has been achieved and there is lots to celebrate, yet there is still lots to challenge and change, especially with the impact of Covid-19 on women and BAME in particular. We must continue to champion flexible working and my MA research will hopefully help with adding data. Part-time working and job shares must be normalised. Co-leadership roles must be created. Rejoined and returner programmes must be focused on. We must continue to focus on diverse representation as each woman in #WomenEd has a different voice, a different perspective and a different lived experience. We must continue to challenge events and publications with no diversity. We must continue to engage with #HeForShe allies to ensure that gender equality is a societal conversation and not a gender one. We must continue to focus on how to shift the narrative for the next generation and raise awareness in schools, to build the resilience of girls as they move into these spaces. We must continue to encourage women and girls to go into politics because look at the difference it makes having a woman lead your country through a crisis.
So Happy 5th Twitter Birthday #WomenEd!
This picture from our Breaking the Mould event of me with Lee, Carly, Jaz, Debra, Alison, Paulina, Rae, Mary and a Flamingo, captures the sisterhood of #WomenEd – the diversity of women who I have the privilege to know, to respect, to love, to learn from and to be supported by.