Storytelling, Women and Leadership

Shake it off

So here is the thing. Even when I am not actively researching and writing my PhD is playing itself out in other ways in my life. Last school holidays I had the pleasure of watching Sing with my little (and not so little) people. I have been doing the ‘family movie’ thing for close to two decades and after awhile the G rated, play school, Wigglesque moving image loses appeal.

So ….here I was snuggled up on the couch watching Sing. A musical with animated animals. I did not hold my hopes too high. But I confess, I must eat humble pie. Sing pulled at my heart strings, I sang along, I rooted for the performers, the shy young girl and the mother of 25 little ones. Rosita is a pig, a wife and mother. She works relentlessly but secretly harbours a passion for singing and performing. Her husband Norman is the provider and he comes home each day and fails to see ‘her’. Rosita longs to pursue her teenage dream of being a performer and she decides one day that she will enter a singing competition.

It is at this moment that Rosita stumbles across something of her young self, an earlier version of a woman with hopes and dreams. Her musical number in the film is Shake it Off performed by Reese Switherspoon. It was as I watched her sing  this song that I realised that whilst Taylor Swift had originally been singing about the men in her life, Rosita was performing about her life as a wife, mother and homemaker. Rosita is time poor, overworked, underpaid and has become silent, a shadow of her former self. But she finds the courage to pursue her passion for singing and to be brave.

These bold words struck me anew.

I stay out (up) too late, got nothing in my brain
That’s what people say, that’s what people say
I go on too many dates, but I can’t make them stay
At least that’s what people say, that’s what people say
But I keep cruising
Can’t stop, won’t stop moving
It’s like I got this music in my mind
Saying it’s gonna be alright
Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off.
This was the soundtrack for many of the women I had interviewed for my PhD research. Each had a heart for leadership and education but at times they had listened to the notion that they were ‘nothing’. Hearing these women narrate their lives and share tales of determination, to keep moving, striving and stepping out in faith, to take the plunge into leadership when the players and haters were not on their side, was inspirational.
These women were able to shake it off.
The thing is they are gonna shake, shake, shake it off for a long time. The journey into leadership is challenging and for women in education in a rural context there is a whole unique set of challenges. But oh the rewards if you can shake it off.
#womenEd #womenEdAus # ruralED
Education, gender, Women and Leadership

Is the future equal?


Australian film director Jane Campion has partnered with ANZ to produce this short film that highlights the need for more systems to support women.

A girl’s brain develops faster than boys but this is not sustained through the course of life. The aim of this campaign is to bring attention to the need for organizations around the world to support women as they learn, develop and grow. Women need access to education, opportunities to create, share their ideas, develop their voice and lead. Here is some of the data:


  • women earn up to 36 per cent less than men1
  • women represent more than 40 per cent of the world’s labour force but only control a quarter of the world’s wealth2
  • worldwide, women make up less than 20 per cent of government3
  • less than 25 per cent of senior management roles are held by women4
  • 31 million girls worldwide are still denied a primary education.5

In Australia:

  • the average weekly shortfall in wages of $295 per week, extended over a typical 40-year career, equates to a gender pay gap of about $700,0006
  • women returning to work after 12 months’ parental leave are subject to an average 7 per cent wage penalty (known as the “motherhood penalty”), increasing to 12 per cent over the subsequent year7
  • about 90 per cent of Australian women will retire with inadequate savings to fund a comfortable lifestyle in retirement8
  • women spend almost twice as much time on unpaid work as men.9

The film is aesthetically beautiful and the young girls and women portrayed are a glimpse of our future. For me, as I reflect on the role of women leaders in education these issues are more important than ever. We need strong women educators who will inspire and support younger women as they learn and work and engage with the world; who will address the issues raised here.  We need women educators who are honest about life as a working woman, balancing career and family, negotiating conditions and pay, taking on board the challenge and reward of leadership. We need women and men who will rally for an #equalfuture.