Joanna Williams

Head of Education, Policy Exchange
Speaking at


Do women really need a hand up in Education?

Teaching has historically been considered a suitable job for a woman. But, as recently as the 1960s, women teachers met marriage bars or formal restrictions on career progression once they had children. Today, things could not be more different. Department for Education statistics show that close to 75% of all teachers are female. Men make up just 38% of secondary and 15% of primary school teachers. Some charities and campaigners draw attention to the scarcity of men in the teaching profession and the impact this might have on young boys lacking positive male role models within their communities. However, within the profession itself, there is condiderable focus on women’s career progression. It is argued that women might dominate the profession but are under-represented in senior leadership positions. As a result, mentoring and support groups focused upon enhancing women’s opportunities for promotion have been established. In this session I explore whether women really are under-represented at the higher levels of the teaching profession – and, if so, why this might be the case. I consider whether the under-representation of men is a problem that needs addressing and what the impact of teaching becoming an increasingly gender-imbalanced profession might be.


Joanna Williams is Head of Education, Social Policy and Culture at Policy Exchange. Previously, Joanna taught in schools, further and higher education for over twenty years, most recently as director of the University of Kent’s Centre for the Study of Higher Education. Joanna is an author and the associate editor of the on-line magazine Spiked. Her latest book is Women vs Feminism, Why we all need liberating from the gender wars (2017). Her previous books are Academic Freedom in an Age of Conformity (2016) and Consuming Higher Education, Why Learning Can’t Be Bought (2012).


Beyond sex education: can we teach relationships?

Recent panics over rape culture, sexting teenagers and sexual harassment in schools have led to calls for sex education to be made compulsory, begin at a younger age and encompass a broader range of issues including consent. Key questions to be addressed include: where does education stop and the inculcation of particular values begin? Who decides what healthy relationships look like?