When Women Lead as Women

Ira David Socol
Teachers on Fire Magazine
5 min readMar 8, 2024

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International Women’s Day and How Schools are Run.

The New York Times, July 30, 1909, “A Woman Head of Schools: Chicago Board Selects Mrs. E. F. Young for City Superintendency.”
“A Woman Head of Schools”: Young’s selection as superintendent made the front page of The New York Times in 1909.

I’ve lived through and worked with all kinds of leaders and their leadership styles. I knew great chiefs, captains, lieutenants, and sergeants in the NYPD, along with terrible leaders in all those ranks — and on up to commissioners. All those were male. I’ve known good university presidents and awful university presidents who were male and female. I’ve known great university deans and department heads and very bad university deans and department heads who were male and female. I’ve known great school principals and superintendents and very bad school principals and superintendents who were male and female.

If I made a list of my best bosses, it would absolutely cross gender lines, but that will not be my point today.

There are forms of leadership that encourage innovation, care, and performance and forms that discourage those essential things. In my years of observations, I will note that when women lead as women, they have unique advantages that it is difficult for men to match.

Ed Hess, a University of Virginia Emeritus Professor and a giant in leadership consulting, once told me in a coaching session, “The best meeting has three women and two men unless you can make it four women and one man, or — if you can get this — what you really…

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Ira David Socol
Teachers on Fire Magazine

Author, Dreamer, Educator: A life in service - NYPD, EMS, disabilities/UDL specialist, tech and innovation leader for education. Co-author of Timeless Learning