Last week President Biden announced a $2 trillion plan to rebuild the US infrastructure by injecting funds into the economy for things like repairing roads and bridges, replacing lead pipes that carry water to communities, and improving internet services. Importantly, his plan includes investments in the ‘caring economy infrastructure,’ which will go towards upgrading and adding care centers for the elderly, disabled and children while also providing more funds for universal childcare and for improving paid family leave benefits.  This will allow more Americans to get back to work while not sacrificing their personal and familial responsibilities.  Good for everyone!

This got me thinking: What would investments in a ‘caring economy infrastructure’ look like for women in international schools?  When I coach female heads of school or aspiring leaders, we speak about a fairly common experience sought by hiring committees for head posts, which is facilities development and upgrades (e.g. that new early childhood center, or enhancements to the gym) – akin to the first part of Biden’s infrastructure priorities.  I’ve yet to hear about hiring committees seeking experience in developing a ‘caring economy infrastructure’ in schools, specific to supporting faculty and leaders so they can bring their best – and healthiest — selves to work in service of the school community.

What might such a caring economy infrastructure look like?  For starters, it could mean investments in childcare benefits for non-school-age children so that mothers don’t feel they must choose between a job worthy of their talents and quality childcare.  It could mean improved family leave benefits for any faculty member (male or female) with urgent or timely family obligations.  It could mean development of policies and practices aimed at addressing the lived realities of so many women who are harassed or targeted by virtue of their gender, or whose daily living choices are curtailed because they are female (e.g. walking from school to home becomes a hazard). It could mean offering targeted wellness care for women in their menopausal years.  It could mean paying for coaching services to help women (and men) thrive in their leadership role without sacrificing personal wellbeing. It could mean supporting opportunities to attend – and present at — conferences like the ECIS Leadership Conference, which was held this past week and which was by far the most representative of the diversity in our international schools than any conference I’ve attended in the international school space.  Bravo, ECIS!

COVID has made it abundantly clear that building a caring economy infrastructure in our schools is not a ‘nice to have’ but a necessary investment so that the core elements that make a school successful – humans rather than facilities – can perform at their best without depleting their fuel tanks.

Yours in seeking those ‘care infrastructure investments,’