Gender biases prevail in all sectors, and the education sector is no exception to it. There are regions in the country where women’s leadership is not appreciated, which reflects how women are perceived. While we see many successful women leaders in the education sector, there is a need to encourage and tap the potential of talented women. Starting with avoiding biases at the time of recruitment, some organizations prefer men to women keeping in mind the extra leaves like maternity leaves that women are liable to receive. For a progressive society, professional development opportunities should be made equally accessible to women. “Women are better off today, but still far from being equal to men in our society and country, we have miles to go. Creating a culture of respect will build a positive work environment for women. Recognition of women’s achievements will build their confidence. This will also help male members accept women leaders more willingly and with grace,” opines Kinnari Shah, Head of School, D Y Patil International School.
As Head of School, Kinnari performs the duties of a leader as well as a manager. Being aware that the outlook of the mass is changing rapidly and profoundly, Kinnari feels her role as an educator is to ensure that the learning designed at the school must help her students in embracing the challenges that would be confronted by them in the future and overcome them successfully rather than yielding to unfavourable circumstances. To achieve this, she says, “Developing a shared vision is of paramount importance. My role is to develop a common understanding among the stakeholders about this vision and steer efforts in this direction to make it a reality.” To make students future-ready, Kinnari recognizes their individuality. She also acknowledges their relationships with their teachers, peers, families, and communities that influence their learning. With a belief to build a stable foundation in academics and digital literacy, Kinnari strives to create a personalized learning environment that motivates her students to nurture their passion and inspire them to see her as a leader.
Following her Parents’ Footsteps
Brought up in an environment that empowers girls to become independent citizens of society, Kinnari’s learning journey started much before she was enrolled in a school. With her parents working as educators in reputed institutions, Kinnari had the advantage of learning from both her elder siblings as well, which created a stimulating environment at home where they were always encouraged to learn. Having learned about foreign writers along with Indian literature, it was easy for her to develop an eye for multiple perspectives while evaluating any issue, be it local or global. She opines, “The seeds were sown to develop international-mindedness from those conversations with my family members. I have studied in India and am a student of the Indian education system. I hold high regard for the curriculum that I have studied. However, I have always felt there is a strong need to update the assessment procedures of our conventional education system”.
Having previously worked under many experienced and versatile leaders, Kinnari feels each has contributed to shaping her as a leader. Her willingness to absorb maximum from the people she meets has helped her grow better. Talking about the person who particularly contributed to her journey, Dolly Edulbehram, an educator with more a 50 years of experience in education, Kinnari has imbibed many leadership lessons from her. She reminisces, “Working beneath her wings was like being in a university. She handled complex situations with grace. I remain indebted to her for shaping me for what I am today. I must also add that I have interacted and worked under a few leaders from whom I learned the nuances of functioning and also consciously avoiding making mistakes”.
Leading Along with the Crew
With an extremely efficient and supportive team in place, Kinnari shares a common understanding of the school’s mission and vision statements. She firmly believes that it is important for the team members to trust their leader. Using the distributive leadership approach and taking feedback from the team members while making a crucial decision, Kinnari feels remaining accessible and approachable also contributes to gaining trust from the team members. She adds, “the good old method of brainstorming and ongoing professional development helps us in coming up with innovative ideas for teaching and learning. The professional development plan is designed painstakingly after doing a gap analysis at the school”. Always in touch with her administrative and academic team, Kinnari is also constantly interacting with her students as well which helps her a great deal in remaining calm and accepting the responsibilities bestowed on her.
Having taught Business Management for more than two decades, Kinnari feels proud when she sees her students become successful entrepreneurs by applying their knowledge of the subject in real-life situations and contributing positively to society. Women possess an innate capability to multitask. Kinnari encourages aspiring women leaders to hone their multitasking skills which would help them in their daily operations. “As leaders, we are engaged in operational as well strategic matters regularly, and multitasking with good time management skills will ease pressure and would allow us to enjoy our professional life,” she concludes.