Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity.
– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
An Introduction from Unwrapped
Every woman leader has a story. The stories of triumph, heartbreak, persistence, resilience, and failure are the best data we have to examine our social conditioning and how we need to break free from it. Stories show what is missing, what is real, what is predominant. Over the past decade, women have been taking hold of their power. We can feel it and see it from the Me Too movement, #TimesUp, to the 2020 vice presidential nominee’s declaration “I am speaking!” We have had it. There is beginning to be a shift in how we lead, and we are not apologizing for it.
So how did we get here and what do we do now? If we are to ever move the needle and own the narrative, we have to start with telling our stories and healing ourselves. We have to unwrap the layers of anger, misogyny, societal norms, stereotypes, sexism, gendered racism, and self-imposed and collective shaming that have kept us from thriving. A powerful lever we have at our disposal is our educational system. We can use it to shape the lives of young girls and boys so that they do not perpetuate the isms that continue to “place” people in society.
And yet the story of women in educational leadership is both disturbing and fascinating. The number of women in senior leadership positions in schools and districts has not changed much since the late 1990s. Oh sure, we have made some progress. But when we consider that nearly 80 percent of women make up the teaching force and only 33 percent of women are in the top tier leadership positions within their districts, we know that there is a problem. And when distilling the numbers further by race, the numbers are appalling, with only 5 percent of Black women leading school districts.
We aren’t doing nearly enough. It’s time to explore what’s missing and identify strategies and tools to address the gaps. This book is about helping us unwrap ourselves to learn who we are, how we show up, and what we do to support each other to lead with courage, resilience, and authenticity.
We don’t purport to know the answers to the gender and race issues, nor do we purport that the stories we share are shared by all women, most women, and Black women. Our hope is that our stories spark your own learning, self-discovery, reflection, and action to make a positive difference in your life and the women you work, play, and live with. We also hope that you begin to unwrap your layers of learning to discover how you have navigated your leadership journey so that you can begin to free yourself and be unapologetically you.
Are our goals, plans, and desires big and audacious? Maybe. But why not? We no longer want to live or play small. So, there you have it. What is wrapped up is now unraveling. We are going forth to start this new journey together, helping each other unpeel each layer while attending to our wounds and sharing the care and leadership women want and need.
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