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08 Mar 2023

Female representation in school leadership

woman looking to camera smiling

This International Women’s Day, I have been reflecting on the opportunities I have to work to increase female representation in school leadership positions through my role as Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership (the Academy).

The Academy, a new statutory authority of the Victorian Department of Education, offers evidence-informed, inspiring professional learning to Victorian school teachers and leaders.

As someone who has spent a long time working in male-dominated leadership teams, I have a strong passion for emphasising and encouraging women in leadership positions. As part of my role at the Academy, I often speak to current and aspiring female leaders about leadership in education. This provides exciting opportunities to raise awareness of the learning and support that the Academy offers to aspiring women, as it is critical that we ensure that our school leaders are representative of the workforce they lead and that we increase the diversity of the school leadership.

Before joining the Academy, I spent 30 years in the higher education sector. In the latter part of my time in universities, I was a university Senior Vice President and Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, with significant responsibility for a wide range of university faculties, departments and schools, and for teaching, learning and student services.

At times, it was a lonely space to work in as a woman. There were very few of us then, and while there are more women in university executive and senior roles today than there were 30 years ago, men still hold 75% of all the top jobs in Australian universities. Given intellect and the ability to work hard is equally distributed across genders, I find this curious.

Now in my CEO role in the Victorian school sector, I see similar patterns. Despite 76% of the Victorian government teaching workforce being women, only 44% of executive principals are women and just 56% of principals are women. This is not even close to gender representation of the schools workforce.

There is better news in the assistant principal figures, with 62% of assistant principals being women, although this is still an under-representation given the workforce gender make-up.

I’m interested in this under-representation of women in Victorian school leadership and how the Academy might contribute to increasing the proportion of female leaders in Victorian schools.

Since launching the Academy, we have been prioritising the collection of enhanced program data so that we can build an accurate picture of who is undertaking the professional learning we offer. This data assists us with understanding which educators are aiming to develop leadership knowledge, dispositions and skills, and aspiring to leadership positions.

Candidates who wish to be appointed as principals in Victorian government schools are required to meet the Victorian Aspiring Principal Assessment (VAPA) requirements. The Academy is responsible for overseeing the VAPA program and providing the assessments.

For those deemed to have not yet met the requirements, the Academy offers an individually tailored plan of professional learning that ensures every principal is equipped with the necessary experience, knowledge, dispositions, skills and emotional intelligence to lead the complex challenging organisation that is a school.

The Academy intends to track data on participation in our programs, including VAPA, against appointments into principalships. Through doing so, we can assist women with their career aspirations by monitoring and responding to emerging trends, increasing awareness of targeted professional learning programs, offering scholarships, suggesting mentoring, and incorporating other interventions that may be helpful to encourage more women into leadership roles in schools.

The Academy also offers a range of subsidies to make it possible for educators from Victorian government schools to attend our courses. I encourage you to review these subsidies if you or your colleagues are considering our programs.

We have now launched our Women in Leadership: Build your capability and influence program. This program offers participants the opportunity to learn how to become even more impactful leaders by developing key leadership skills and confidence. If you are interested, you can read more about the program, including intake dates. 

If you’d like to know more about professional learning at the Academy, you can sign up for our fortnightly newsletter Academy Connect or email our Program and Participant Support team at

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