Where are the girls?

In Bamboo News, Head Of School, This Is Green School

Women In Leadership at Green School Bali 

Let’s start with where they are not. In almost every corner of the world, women in educational leadership roles remain substantially underrepresented. The question as to why this is the case, remains the subject of much analysis and debate. Education is just one of many professional sectors where women are distinctly absent from behind the CEO desk and from the boardroom table. While this seemingly intractable global challenge persists, Green School Bali is getting on with blazing a new trail.

Education is a frontier for change in so many ways. Ensuring that children graduate well-equipped to take on the challenges and opportunities for the 21st century is the core responsibility and challenge for all educational systems. While the traditional hulking ships of education are slowly turning to chart a new course, many new, agile and exciting models for education are emerging.

Systems of education are being transcended by new game changers.

21st century skills of agility, adaptability, being able to connect, creatively problem solve and collaborate is not only skills the children of today need to acquire, but are also skills that school leaders themselves need to possess, model and implement.

They are in essence, very human skills, and are emphasized in the selection of senior leaders and Board members at Green School. With a heavy emphasis on emotional intelligence, community-mindedness and ability to positively influence others to effect change, Green School bucks the trend on women in educational leadership roles.

Women Leaders at Green School: Leslie Medema, Head of Learning Program
Women Leaders at Green School: Leslie Medema, Head of Learning Program

As Head of Learning at Green School Bali, Leslie Medema, states “Children are the best at holding you to account for your responsibilities. They are authentic, honest and are not always particularly interested in where you sit in the organisational chart! Being able to adapt, influence and lead in authentic and creative ways are essential ingredients to success. Not only when building relationships with children, but for effective and sustainable leadership as well.”

Interestingly, Green School does not have a single Head of School. Success and overall accountability is a shared endeavour. The executive leadership team comprises of three roles, overseeing learning, community and environment. All working together, with specific responsibilities but in a truly collaborative model – confident alone, stronger together.

Reflecting on the culture of Green School, Medema states that “Creating a safe and secure environment, where all children are respected as unique individuals is the culture within which learning can truly flourish. Ensuring that children’s education gives them what they need to thrive in the world of today and tomorrow, is much more than an academic pursuit. Of equal importance is the nurturing of the social, emotional and creative elements of children. If our leadership team did not model these behaviours, we would be failing the children.”

By design and intent, this model helps preserve a culture of openness, integrity, and respect.

The Board of Management is also a collaborative group of community members. With fifty percent gender balance and representative of parents with children in Early Years up to High School, teachers and parents of local Balinese scholar students. Students have a voice too, with the Chair of the Board attending Student Council meetings to gather feedback and ideas and students having direct access to Board members and Board meetings.

It is a working model that puts children first and importance is placed on the social and emotional aspects of decision-making as much as it is on managing risks and budgets.

Women Leaders at Green School: Kate Druhan, Chair of the Board of Management
Women Leaders at Green School: Kate Druhan, Chair of the Board of Management

“It’s essential that our leadership team exemplifies the skills and qualities we are nurturing in the children. Community-minded people are drawn to Green School and our executive team and Board of Management is the reverse of the norm, in terms of gender.”

- Kate Druhan, Chair of the Board of Management

It is worth contemplating the effect that women in leadership at Green School have on the culture and success of the School. According to the Chair of the Board of Management, Kate Druhan, “Green School has extended the frontiers of learning in so many ways, including how it manages itself. We have an incredibly diverse and dynamic community and collectively, the School has tremendous energy and forward momentum. Bringing people together, making connections, listening, adapting and shepherding the School in a forward direction is a nuanced pursuit.”

In thinking of the School as an interconnected system of people and place, Druhan states “We bring together three key elements – learning, community, and environment. The leadership team and organizational structure reflect this. Keeping an absolute focus on all three of these elements has allowed us to grow and adapt while staying true to our philosophical beginnings.”

Women in leadership can play a powerful role in creating a sense of community, a place where open communication and collaboration are the hallmarks of how things get done. Green School recognizes this as essential for its ongoing creative evolution and sustained success.

Women Leaders at Green School: Ni Putu Tirka, President of Yayasan Kul Kul
Women Leaders at Green School: Ni Putu Tirka, President of Yayasan Kul Kul

Holding a special place at the very heart of Green School, is Ibu Tirka, the President of Yayasan Kul-Kul (the not-for-profit entity within which the School sits). Ibu Tirka uses the analogy of bamboo to describe how the School brings together the Balinese concept of balance between people, the environment, and spirituality. “A shoot of bamboo can never stand alone. It cannot grow in singularity, but rather in a grove. The grove adapts, expands and strengthens over time. It provides space and protection for new shoots to grow and mature in harmony. This is community, this is life, this is Green School.”

Trust is high. Mistakes are opportunities to learn. Success is shared.

They say that it takes a village to raise a child. As we all search for community and human connection in the modern world, the women and people of Green School are getting on with what they do best, building community and a culture where respect, joy and ‘children first’ flourishes.

So, where are the girls?

As it happens, they are at Green School, changing education and blazing a trail for women in educational leadership.

If you would like to learn more about Green School Bali, please visit www.greenschool.org

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