06/19/2019 by Carney Sandoe Staff |

8 Takeaways from the CS&A Women’s Institute

Women's Institute 2019

The alarm has been sounded for women working in education.

On June 14, over 100 members of the education community gathered for Carney, Sandoe & Associates' Women's Institute in Boston. In its third iteration, the Institute brings together female educators and their allies to openly and honestly address issues faced by women working in education.

After a welcome reception the night before, the event kicked off in a strong way with the unveiling of CS&A's Statement on Women in Leadership:

As a leader in placement and search services for independent schools, Carney, Sandoe & Associates pledges itself to increasing the number of women in leadership roles as part of our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

We believe in the importance of this work because our schools and their students benefit when leadership teams represent a balance in terms of gender. Historically, the percentage of women represented in those teams—especially at the head of school level—has remained at an unacceptably low level (with the exception of schools for girls).

As we work with candidates, trustees, search committees, school leaders, and partner organizations, we will strive to find new ways to increase the number of women candidates and placements in traditionally underrepresented roles.

Women's Institute Women's Institute

With that, the stage was set for our two keynote speakers. We were excited to welcome Nicole DuFauchard, Head of School at The Advent School, and Karen Eshoo, Head of School at King School, who each took the audience on a journey into their lives as women and leaders. Speaking candidly about their experiences and choices they have made, they had attendees laughing and finding comfort in finding out that they, too, have things they struggle with as females.

Women's Institute

After Nicole and Karen, the day's panel sessions featured an impressive lineup of current and former female heads of school, CS&A consultants, and other female school leaders. In “Generations of Mentors/Sponsors,” Aggie Underwood (Vice President of CS&A, former Head of Garrison Forest School and National Cathedral School), Barbara Chase (CS&A Senior Consultant, former Head at The Bryn Mawr School and Philips Academy), Fran Bisselle (Head at Hathaway Brown), and Rebecca Sykes (President of the Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation) each shared the unique story of their career and reflected on the people who nurtured and guided them into leadership roles.

Women's Institute

Attendees examined the critical differences between the work of mentors and sponsors in supporting and promoting successful careers in educational leadership in the day's next panel. Corinne Fogg (Director of Curriculum & Professional Development at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart), Marti Champion (Head of Middle School at Graland Country Day School), and Barbara Daush (CS&A Senior Consultant, former head at St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School) dug into data surrounding women in leadership and explored the relevance of this work to searching for a new position.

In the final panel, Priscilla Morales (Associate Head of School at The Park School) held a frank discussion on how, in order for intersectional feminism to work, women need to support and advocate for those whose identities cross intersections that are foreign to theirs. She also led the group in a case study about inequality and bias in hiring.

A centering and relaxing mindfulness session with Checka Antifonario was followed by what has become our favorite feature of the Women's Institute: mentor and sponsor small group meetings. Attendees were assigned into small groups based on their responses to a pre-event survey. Each group was also joined by a CS&A consultant or other Institute speaker who served as discussion facilitator and mentor for the group, offering advice and answering group members' questions. Participants used this time to ask questions of and network with group members, share lessons learned from challenging situations, and offer support to peers who are navigating through tough situations.

The Women's Institute was a celebration of women, but also a strong reminder of the work that needs to be done around leveling the playing field for women in educational leadership. While it's impossible to capture the infinite amount of inspiration gleaned and lessons learned from the day, here are our 8 takeaways from the Women's Institute.

1. You are fascinating.

Each individual's story is what makes us unique. Treasure and nurture those differences.

2. You have superpowers.

Whether it's running a school, running a classroom, or running a marathon, you are incredible. Don't sell yourself short.

3. There is always wiggle room.

Don’t feel locked in by the way things have or have not been done. You have room when making decisions to chart your own path. Women have options, and their choices are their own to make.

4. Leadership comes in all forms.

You don't need to want to be a head of school to be considered a leader. Just as not all superheros wear capes, not all leaders need to have the job titles to match.

5. There is a gender gap in school leadership that needs to be addressed.

The statistics don't lie. There needs to be intentional changes to increase the number of women in leadership roles.

6. Meditate at your own pace.

The quickest way to understand the great nature of mind is to have patience. You don't need to have all the answers at once.

7. Feminism and intersectionality go hand in hand.

There is nothing wrong with building a tribe. But in order to empower women and evoke progress, a tribe must intentionally be inclusive of all women.

8. Take time to isolate what inspires you.

Notice when you feel moved by something, then to use that to create joy, passion, and purpose.


We are so grateful to the speakers and guests who helped create this third iteration of our Women's Institute, and look forward to continuing to grow and evolve the event in support of women in the education community.

Did you attend the Institute? Share your takeaways in the comments below!

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