In 2006, 80% of all teachers in public education were female while only 18-28% of school superintendents were women. Unfortunately, most of those superintendent posts were in small school districts (ADA below 1000) or in districts no one wanted to work in due to problems and high turnover rates. I knew these facts by heart but was determined to not let them deter me from my mission to become a superintendent.
I sought out the help of a good friend to ask her if she thought I had what it took to become a superintendent. “Oh yes, for sure,” she said, “you are a powerful woman, and everyone admires you. There’s one thing if you don’t mind hearing some critical advice. You need to clean up your act. You don’t look like a woman in power. Your hairstyle, while cute, is too wild. Your outfits are not what a woman superintendent would wear. If you want to make it to the top, you need to work on establishing your professional brand.”
More sobering news. I appreciated her feedback but decided to get a second opinion. Same response.
I was fortunate to have trusted advisors in my life coaching me on what I needed to hear. I spent the next two years upgrading my image and it worked. I could sense people were treating me differently as a result of the change in my personal and professional demeanor.
I dressed every day in a suit or tailored dress. I wore a ‘normal’ hairstyle and stopped swearing among my friends. I sat in the front of the room at all meetings, worked on my communication style, smiled a lot, and networked like crazy. I began to like the change I saw in myself. I was gaining power. I felt confident and was prepared to apply for the top job in my field.
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