Principal - May/June 2021 - 40

Women

IN LEADERSHIP

Here's what a few educators had to say about their intersectional challenges:
" At a very young age, I knew that there were unwritten
rules that I had to follow in the workplace to succeed, " says
Latrina Woods, a teacher coach from New Orleans. " These
unwritten rules dictated how I wore my hair, my tone of
voice, and my facial expressions. In most situations, I was
the only African American woman. The lack of representation was a constant reminder that if I [didn't] follow these
unwritten rules, I was at risk of losing my job. "
" As women of color, we run up against dual oppression, " says
Margarita Cuizon-Armelino, senior director of member services
for the Association of California School Administrators. " In other
words, we can't be both smart and seen as strong leaders and be
likeable at the same time. Gender biases require that we be either/or. Now add the fact that Asian Americans are from a culture
that reinforces humility to a fault and [tells us] to respect authority
without question. "
" As an Asian Indian female, I am often in a no-win situation, " says Shana Henry, principal of New Encina Middle
School in Sacramento, California. " Being assertive and
direct doesn't fit the stereotype for Asians of being docile,
submissive, soft-spoken, and passive. Having a strong voice
or sharing your opinions can be seen as aggressive or unapproachable. People get uncomfortable if you don't fit in 'the
box,' and [they see you as] a risk. "

A Benefit and a Hindrance
Other educators have faced implicit bias and tokenism but
were able to use their intersectional experiences to advance:
" As a Black/African American middle-class female, my social
identities have been both a benefit and a hindrance to my
climb up the leadership ladder, " says Felicia Noel, assistant
principal of Alice Birney Elementary School in California's
Colton Joint Unified School District. " I'm often called upon to
fill a void that allows me a seat at the table but with a silent
voice. I was simply there just to be a check-the-box for equity. Although my skin color has opened many doors to opportunities, there are several doors that close simultaneously. "
" I feel that the different social identities that encompass
who I am-a passionate female, native Spanish speaker,
Latina leader who gained access to the middle class via
education-allow me to leverage my understanding of
inequities, " says Judith Servin, principal of Colton's William
McKinley Elementary School. " This has certainly allowed me
to organically focus on equitable leadership. "
" As a first-generation, Spanish-​speaking Latina, I believe
my ethnicity benefited me as I began to move into leadership

*

40

M A Y / J U N E 2 0 2 1 * N A E S P. O R G

roles, " says Cindy Aguilar-Muñoz, principal of Colton's Ruth O. Harris Middle
School. " Serving in diverse Title 1
schools where the majority of the student population was nonwhite, there
was a move to have staff that reflects
the diversity of the student body. For
me, I believe this was an advantage. "

Lifting Others Up
Let's create more of those advantages
by recognizing that female educators
are often defined by the many identities
and experiences they bring to a school.
Instead of marginalizing them, listen
to their needs and help them enrich
education with their diverse experiences. They can then, in turn, help others
navigate their paths to leadership.
" My social identity as a mother, a
woman, a daughter to immigrants,
and the first to complete and achieve
higher education degrees are just a
few of the important elements that
have helped me to become a school
leader and a positive role model, " says
Cathy Cervantes, principal of Colton's
Mary B. Lewis Elementary. " Although
it was and still is a challenging journey
to climb up the leadership ladder, I
use the experiences and relationships
I have gained along the way to learn,
share, and articulate uplifting stories
for others in similar situations. The
real benefit is knowing that we are
not alone as long as women leaders
continue to support one another. "
Andrea Thompson is assistant
principal of Mary Harris " Mother " Jones
Elementary School in Adelphi, Maryland,
and a fellow with NAESP's Center for
Women in Leadership.
Jessica Gomez is principal of Alice
Birney Elementary School in Colton,
California, and a fellow with NAESP's
Center for Women in Leadership.


https://www.naesp.org/programs/professional-learning/centers-for-advancing-leadership/women-in-leadership/ https://www.naesp.org/programs/professional-learning/centers-for-advancing-leadership/women-in-leadership/ http://www.NAESP.ORG

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