The Tim Hunt saga rumbles on in the media. Personally, I think he deserves all the grief he is getting because he made light of the profound barriers women face in the workplace. I’m also disappointed that the fallout has focussed on whether his detractors acted as a lynch mob rather than what he said because there are important issues that he and many of us fail to grasp. In teaching, these issues require reflection in the context of the renewed emphasis by Sir Michael Wilshaw on leaders as the key to school improvement.
The workplace is where the majority of people meet partners. This is obviously a positive experience for many – far better than the alternatives -but we do not discuss the issues in our own contexts that can have a very negative effect on work and people’s lives.
Tim Hunt needs to know that the people he claimed fell in love with him, did not. They were attracted to him because of his status not because of his character etc. This has implications for all of us. The more an individual is promoted the more they will sense people being attracted to them. One of the dangers to workplaces is that leaders begin to believe their own hype and this can effect decision making. The leader can begin to believe that they are getting more attractive with age because they do not recognise the factors at play. Those of us who do not reflect on and analyse inequalities in the workplace need to do so in order to better prepare for the unequal playing field. In my own profession, this perhaps ought to be part of the National Professional Qualification for Headteachers- “you’ve become a headteacher not George Clooney or the female equivalent”.
There is also a need to recognise the impact of gender imbalances. In teaching most of the workforce is female (and heterosexual) and a disproportionate number of senior leaders are male (and heterosexual) In some places, women find themselves discriminated against and then led by men. If men have Tim Hunt’s mentality, the school may have serious issues that detract from the focus on pupil well-being.