100 Years, 100 Women: Vivienne Porritt

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Holly Gardner

Holly Gardner is TT Editor, as well as a Freelance Publisher. She has been working with @TeacherToolkit for over 6 years - since she published his first book in her role as Senior Commissioning Editor at Bloomsbury Publishing. Since then, she left her day job,...
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How can you make a difference with a hashtag?

Our 15th interview for the 100 women series is with Vivienne Porritt. Vivienne is a leadership consultant supporting schools with professional learning and development and also, one of the co-founders and national leaders of #WomenEd.

When I first launched the 100 women project back in January 2018 I got in touch with Vivienne and asked her to take part. She agreed straight away but it wasn’t until 6 months later at the Festival of Education that I finally got to meet her.

In the interview that follows she speaks passionately about the fantastic work #WomenEd are doing and its importance. I am quite in awe of her achievements and her eloquence – more of which comes across in her brilliant Ted Talk which you can find at the end of the interview.

What career achievement are you most proud of?

I am most proud of several achievements and can’t single one out. I am proud to have been the headteacher of a secondary school, to have been Director for School Partnerships at the UCL Institute of Education and, as a Chair of Governors of an inner-city school in London. I’m very proud to have supported that school on a tough journey of improvement and to see students, teachers and leaders succeed.

I’m also very proud that I am a Founding Fellow of the Chartered College of Teachers and am delighted to have founded #WomenEd which is the most joyous experience I have had in my career.

If there was one thing you could change in education what would it be?

I would increase the number of female leaders at all levels of education.

This would mean improving the opportunities for women to develop as leaders in the ways that best support them, including better flexible working practices, improved approaches to parental leave and reducing the gender pay gap so that women are valued properly for the brilliant successes they achieve.

What does being a co-founder of #WomenEd mean to you?

When we first thought of #WomenEd, we wanted to connect more women leaders, so they understood that many others felt the same as they did and to give women a voice in education which seemed missing or ignored. What it means now is pride that we are achieving these goals and more, and joy as collaborating with the ever growing #WomenEd community is awe inspiring. We were named by the TES as one of the top ten education influencers in December 2017 and, to me, that means we are bringing down the barriers to women being education leaders. In particular, at least on Twitter, women have gained a voice and #WomenEd is amplifying that.


Why do you think #WomenEd is so important?

Education, from nursery to university, is a feminised workforce yet women are too often marginalised. The gender pay gap shows that women are not yet being recompensed for their contribution, they are not represented equitably at senior levels of leadership in education and too many leave the education world because they do not feel recognised or supported. #WomenEd is important because we are raising awareness of these issues with individuals, with the organisations in which they work and with those who can pull systemic levers to bring about change. The #WomenEd community is full of hope and belief that, collectively, we can and will bring about positive change for each of these 3 levels.

What do you hope #WomenEd will have achieved in 10 year’s time?

In February 2019, Sage Education are publishing our book which tells the story of #WomenEd and how women are addressing barriers to becoming leaders. So, in 10 years’ time we hope that:

  • the book is on its 3rd edition and we have therefore connected with many more women in education beyond Twitter
  • there is a better gender balance in education leadership, especially in early years, secondary education and universities
  • the gender pay gap has reduced
  • flexible working practices mean more women are retained and become senior leaders
  • the gender divide in the leadership of education technology has improved

What does the centenary of women getting the vote mean to you?

It has been inspiring to learn much more about those women who suffered to gain the vote for us. It is also frustrating as I think those brave women would have expected us to have achieved a greater level of gender parity than we currently have. I am in awe of the women who used the centenary to develop and contribute to the #metoo and #timesup campaigns and the worldwide marches of women. This spurs me on to support and empower the next generation of women leaders to be all that they can be.

Which 3 famous women, dead or alive, would you invite to a dinner party?

Stella Creasy, MP, Charlotte Bronte and Cate Blanchet

Which woman would you recommend we interview next?

Professor Becky Francis because she’s a principled woman, leading in the university sector.

You can find out more about Vivienne on Twitter and LinkedIn. Also, I highly recommend you watch her inspirational Ted Talk: “A world where normal doesn’t exist: celebrating uniqueness.”

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