Advocacy is tough work—and many advocates have faced the added challenge of breaking barriers for future generations of leaders.
In recognition of both Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating women leading across the Network. (Of course, this list represents just a small sample of the leaders making history in education reform. Millions of other leading women are pioneering change at all levels of education.)
Here, Network members weigh in on their most significant accomplishments, the mentors who helped them achieve their goals, and the advice they wish they’d had along the way.
What change have you helped make for kids that you think has been most impactful?
For me, “making it count” is all about people. I am so proud of our work at the Data Quality Campaign because we have helped change the culture around information in education.
Bottom line–our work isn’t about building longitudinal data systems, it’s about making it possible for every individual learner to be seen and to see more clearly. We have not only made it possible to ensure every child is counted, but more importantly, that every child counts.
I’m really proud of our work writing and passing Mississippi’s first state-funded pre-K law. Quality pre-K programs have such great data behind them, and Mississippi missed out for too many years because the conventional wisdom said it couldn’t be done.
Today, our kids are proving what’s possible when we make evidence-based investments.
If you could give advice to yourself as you started out in your career, what would you say?
Fill the void. By that I mean, see a need and act. Be a messenger. Whenever possible, figure out on your own what the need is—it’s a great way to make yourself invaluable to your employer.
Learn from every situation you are in, both the ones with good outcomes and those with bad outcomes. Don’t get so discouraged at the losses, which inevitably happen. Instead, focus on the wins and incremental progress.
Learn from others who are smarter than you and who disagree with you.
As your career advances, surround yourself with people who are have good character, a strong work ethic and who aren’t afraid to tell you when you’re wrong.
1) Know thyself – only you really know what makes you tick and how to use that to amplify your strengths.
2) Work hard and build a good reputation – being liked will get you only so far while being respected for your contributions allows you to really get ahead.
3) If you do numbers 1 and 2 well, the rest will follow but not necessarily along a prescribed path or timeline – therefore, trust in serendipity!
All along the way, cultivate personal strength and integrity.
Sometimes, you only have yourself to follow and only yourself to fall back on – make that enough.
During your career, what have you learned from female mentors?
Don’t try to be someone that negates who you are as a person and a woman.
Show up each day being your best self. That is the most authentic way to share your personal talents and make an impact.
Here are a few nuggets I have gained from leaders I respect:
- Never never never give up!
- Keep students at the center of your work. Be disciplined in this and walk the talk!
- When interviewing: Never negotiate against yourself
- Be respectful of others – Always.
- Life brings its own drama. Avoid people who create unnecessary drama.
- Don’t gossip. Silence is a form of participation.
- Assume anything you write, text, or say could be on the front page of the paper for your mother to read.
I consider my mom and a former boss to have influenced who I am as a leader the most. My mom worked full time from the day I was born so I grew up seeing her as an equal partner to my father. Next to my mom, I consider Dr. Elanna Yalow, one of my former bosses at Knowledge Universe a mentor. Through her, I learned first-hand that one can lead without necessarily fitting in the traditional archetypes set by men, and the best leaders are those who help others do their job well.
And the most important lesson of all: less talk=more work.