Space generally freaks me out (Gravity, anyone?), but I was riveted by the footage this week of the landing of the Perseverance rover on Mars. Enthralling to imagine what we’ll learn about past life on the red planet as this wandering robot carries out its mission.  My head is spinning.  If Mars actually hosted a civilization at some point, what was that like?  How different was it from what we know on earth?  Did Martians really look like little green androgynous beings with disproportionately big eyes and antennas?  Did they have schools?  If so, what were those like?  What did Martian students learn in these schools? And who were those schools led by?

My head is now spinning in a different direction: the future.  Let’s imagine a day not too long from now when the first settlement of humans lands on Mars.  (To be clear, I will not be among those intrepid explorers.  Riding in a sidecar is enough adventure for moi.)  After getting settled into whatever living structures are suitable for those planetary conditions and getting other sustainable life basics figured out, setting up school will fall somewhere on the agenda.  What will school look like on Mars?  What will students learn? And who will lead schools?

While this spinning is going on in my head, I’m thinking a third line of thought:  How is it that we’ve figured out how to get a rover on Mars, but not how to get more women and people of color into leadership positions in international schools here on Earth?  

The first is rocket science. The second isn’t.  The root of the challenge may be complicated, but nothing we can’t figure out if we are motivated, seek the input and talents from a range of people, and have perseverance (of the non-rover type).  Look what happened when the international school community took on the issue of child protection.  It was a crisis – and then a strong woman leader in CIS’s Jane Larsson — that led to the formation of the International Task Force on Child Protection.  I don’t think we need a crisis, or a strong female leader, to take on this challenge.  We need the kind of open-ended curiosity that the rover Perseverance is displaying now on Mars. We need to ask ourselves basic questions.  Why are most school leaders white males?  How did that evolve, and why does it persist?  Why is that a problem (if that’s still not clear to you, please ask me)? What steps can we take, individually and collectively, to put more women and people of color into these roles (and there are plenty of roles to go around, so we’ll need plenty of white males as well)?  How does the leadership landscape need to change in order for that to happen?

I look forward to the day when, like this group of NASA ‘martians’ who helped launch Perseverance, we are collectively cheering a huge accomplishment, which in our case may be when leadership in our schools looks a lot more like the international student body that we serve.  (Note the visuals of this group of NASA ‘martians.’  Our school websites looking something like this would be a great indicator of success.)

One way I’m taking aim at this challenge is my launch of Sidecar FastTrack, a webinar series (3 Sundays in March) to get women interested in international school leadership positions ready for the search. You can help by sharing this opportunity with talented women you know.

Yours in exploring new horizons, especially if they mean staying on this planet,

Bridget