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Is it still a thing?


As I officially begin this week as Principal of Assumption College, one of the things most present in my thoughts is whether or not it is significant that I am the first female Principal of the school.  Since the College was lead by Marist Brothers for over 100 of it’s 112 year history, there’s no surprise that it’s taken this long for a female to be appointed!  My predecessor was the first lay (non-religious) Principal, so in terms of being in an era where both male and female leadership of the school was possible, the Governors have a perfect 50-50 track record.

Of course my leadership will be different from those who have gone before me – this would be the case irrespective of whomever was appointed.  Will it make a difference that I am female?  Well, let’s see (I imagine we could make a case for either end of the spectrum of that discussion!).

My gut feeling is that if we accept the premise that every leader is different, then gender is but one of many, many factors that make up how their leadership is experienced by the community.  Like my peers, my leadership approach has been formed by the inspiration and mentoring of many amazing men and women, and it will continue to be shaped by the people and experiences I encounter, and the reflections I have on those experiences.  I accept learnings of the neurologists and educational psychologists that our brain is constantly able to learn and adapt, and as such, approach leadership as an ongoing experience of development and improvement. I also respect the leadership literature that places relationships and trust at the centre of our work.   I won’t always get it right, but I will learn from those times, and constantly seek to ask what it is that our community needs me to be (which sometimes isn’t what it wants me to be).  I will be as courageous as possible in seeking to anticipate the needs of our students, and to work in collaboration with others to lead our community to a place where those needs are best met.  I see all of the above as both my professional and moral imperative.

Given that for much of its history, the school was a male single-sex College, there will undoubtedly be commentary from time to time about my gender, and the way that influences my leadership.  I know enough male Principals who exhibit what we traditionally call ‘female traits’ and female Principals whose leadership style reminds people of male leaders they have known.  I hope we are more nuanced by now to recognise that leadership comes in many guises, and incorporates skills and approaches that can be cultivated for a range of different situations. Effective leaders know their fundamental core, and which components of their leadership to amplify or diminish at the necessary times.

I look forward to sharing my ongoing leadership journey with you over the coming years.  I hope I can lead the community in such a way that our students and staff feel empowered and encouraged to grow their own leadership capabilities, and that together, we can continue to build a learning community that anticipates and meets our students’ needs, so that they can grow into the best version of themselves every day, and be engaged and engaging adults who serve their community with courage and joy.

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