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The Herstory of Women Leadership in Teacher Education

AACTE Celebrates Women's History Month

AACTE launches it celebration of 2022 Women’s History Month on International Women’s Day with a blog on the “herstory” of women leaders in education preparation. To help AACTE celebrate women leaders in the profession, please nominate a women-identified leader in educator preparation whom you would like us to recognize in Ed Prep Matters before the month ends.

The term “herstory” was coined in 1970 by Robin Morgan, editor of Sisterhood is Powerful, An Anthology of Writings from the Women’s Liberation Movement. It is used today to acknowledge the way in which women have been left out of our historical narratives. Most schools teach history through the lens of America’s default norms: white, cisgendered, and male. AACTE is committed to supporting its membership with their efforts to prepare candidates to equitably represent intersectional female narratives across disciplines.

We are fortunate as a profession, alongside social work and nursing, to have a workforce that is majority female-identifying. Surely it is no coincidence that the work of supporting youth, families, and communities, which requires the most mental and emotional fortitude of any profession, is carried out by women and girls across the world.

Within teacher education, we are especially fortunate to have female-dominated leadership that reflects the workforce. According to the second edition of AACTE’s Colleges of Education: A National Portrait, as it pertains to leadership across all institutions, 59% of deans and associate deans identify as female. Regarding faculty, Colleges of Education employ 60-71% female faculty, depending on rank, compared to 32-55% employed across disciplines of 4-year institutions in total. However, we cannot ignore the glaring fact that even though representation of female leadership in the field of education at large is impressive, the field also garners less prestige comparatively to other professions. What does this say about the way we see and celebrate women leadership?

Feminism, female representation, and the celebration of female excellence in education doesn’t just benefit women in education, but everyone across the gender spectrum, because it counteracts the negative effects patriarchy has on students. When strong female leaders and male allies work together to create equitable school environments for all students, we create the change we want to see. As the famous intersectional feminist, bell hooks, said herself, “If we really want patriarchy to change, we are in trouble if we turn our backs on men.” Therefore, we ask everyone across the gender spectrum to share not only in our celebration of Women’s History month, but to consider how you can show up in spaces each day that promote gender equity and celebrate the intersectional experiences of women educators.

At AACTE’s 2022 Annual Meeting session, “Are We There Yet? Honoring the legacy of HERS 50th Anniversary and Women’s Experiences in Higher Education,” panelists discussed the highs and lows of women leadership and higher education and how the HERS organization, which is committed exclusively to narrowing the gender gap in higher education leadership, supports the advancement of women throughout their career. The panelists highlighted the importance of showing up as your authentic self as a woman in leadership and how communities like HERS can support them in doing so, because it isn’t important that women just show up in leadership positions, but also that they feel safe doing so. As it was noted, 58% of professors, which represent the pool of individuals institutes of higher education recruit into deans and provost roles, are white males. Women deserve support when they show up in these spaces to compete for leadership positions of deans and associate deans. As we know, the deanship has been a launching pad to the presidency for some notable women, including current and former and board members and/or chairs, Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson, Carine Feyten, Gayle Hutchinson, Fayneese Miller, and Kay Schallenkamp. 

As we celebrate these incredible women, please nominate a women-identified leader in educator preparation whom you would like us to recognize in Ed Prep Matters before the month ends. In the meantime, enjoy teaching women’s history during Women’s History Month!


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