Nurturing the Under-represented in Top Posts
BY VALERIE P. TRUESDALE/School Administrator, March 2020

Valerie Truesdale
Ten years ago, I was humbled to be recognized with AASA’s first Women in School Leadership Award. I distinctly remember walking up the steps to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., with Dan Domenech, AASA’s executive director, and asking him if there were any points he’d like for me to highlight in my brief remarks to the news media.

He responded this way: “We are so excited that recent data now indicate that 25 percent of superintendents are women.”

I was stunned. How could it be that only one-fourth of school system leaders were female in a profession dominated with over 75 percent women? Last month at our national conference in San Diego, AASA awarded the 2020 Women in School Leadership award — and still only one of four top school system leaders is female.

In the late 1980s, I was privileged to support the Minority Administrator Program at the University of South Carolina where I worked with an incredible mentor, Aretha Pigford. Advancement for women and people of color into the role of superintendent has not improved significantly in all these years.

Because of the mentoring I received from Pigford and others since then, I have made encouraging, nurturing and advancing talent a priority throughout my career. I am immensely proud of the success of educators with whom I have served over the years as we sought to improve conditions for children and their families. Every leader who is blessed with the opportunity to uplift others has a responsibility to do so. Encouraging women and other under-represented populations to stretch toward the highest leadership roles is our individual and collective duty as teachers first.

AASA’s Commitment
AASA has a stated commitment to advancing women and people of color into school and district leadership and advancing them. The association’s National Women’s Leadership Consortium cultivates skills and dispositions among 25-30 female superintendents each year.

The 2020 consortium will carry a theme we are calling WELLness — Women Educators Leading Learning (#AASAWELL) — and will be held May 6-8 in Stone Mountain, Ga. The theme reflects the need for school and district leaders to be mindful of balancing emotional and physical sides to make fitting decisions in support of children. Leadership wellness matters.

Last October, AASA launched the Aspiring Superintendents Academy® for Female Leaders with 35 participants from 15 states, taught by an all-star faculty of five female superintendents in the San Diego area. Though national representation of female superintendents sits at 25 percent, women occupy more than 60 percent of top education jobs in the San Diego area. Their culture of intentional attention to developing a diverse talent pipeline is worthy of study and emulation.

Even though the percentage of women appears stuck on a plateau and the low percentage of top leaders who are people of color is of deep concern, AASA’s commitment to increasing opportunities for women and minorities is not wavering.

VALERIE TRUESDALE is assistant executive director at AASA in Alexandria, Va. Twitter: @valerietruesdal