Of Note: A Double Bind

Submitted By:
Eileen Bouffard, The Taft School, Watertown, CT

Education Lead(Her)ship: Advancing Women in K-12 Administration by Jennie Weiner and Monica C. Higgins
Harvard Education Press, October 1, 2023

In their accessible and approachable new book, scholars Jennie Weiner and Monica Higgins interrogate the structures and systems leading to the underrepresentation of women school leaders. Each chapter is organized around a contextual reality or theoretical framework followed by case studies and reflection questions. For instance, “The Double Bind For Women Leaders” illuminates that whether women lead with more agentic, stereotypically male qualities or more collaborative, stereotypically feminine ones, “either choice is associated with negative consequences for access to and success in leadership roles.” The case studies that follow illustrate elements of the double bind playing out in the careers of three different female leaders, and the subsequent reflection questions invite readers to consider the narratives in isolation as well as alongside their lived experiences. The authors call for all members of school communities “to learn about gender bias and gendered racism and their relationship with how leadership is defined and enacted and to be intentional about disrupting patterns of bias.” Given that approximately 80% of teachers in independent schools are women while only 33% of school Heads are women, there are gains to be made; Weiner and Higgins effectively demonstrate that suggesting women simply “lean in” is insufficient. Ultimately, this well-researched text is an engaging read that empowers women leaders – and aspiring women leaders – to make sense of their leadership journeys while providing allies with strategies for disrupting gendered discrimination and racism in their communities.

Leadership Practice