Lift the Lid: 23 Voices was a 10-week podcasting and journalism course co-hosted by LEEDS 2023 and Creative Lives, providing participants with the skills and confidence to create their own media about the culture that matters to them. In this article, Emma Coghlan writes about female educators being celebrated at Leeds Beckett University.

According to GOV.UK, more than 76% of schoolteachers are women. So why aren’t we celebrating this! Why aren’t we celebrating them.

As a woman studying hopefully to become a teacher at Leeds Beckett University, it is truly inspirational to see female educators taking centre stage at the Wise Women manifesto exhibition at Leeds School of Arts as part of the LEEDS 2023 Year of Culture.

Ever since I was a little girl; I have imagined a career where I can support and be a pillar of warmth for children as they navigate this bright and scary world. And what better way to do that than teaching? Many people consider teaching an easy path to choose, but this is not the case. I mean you look at the long hours worked and, the emotional and mental toll it takes and, the lack of support from the Government and, need I say more?

Firstly, up until 1919 no married women were even allowed to teach, and after the sex disqualification Removal act was passed, female teachers – and working women in general – were frowned upon. Women for decades fought for the right to teach, to become educators, to show the world what we can be with a little knowledge and kindness.  

Secondly, it’s a hard job. A decade after qualifying, only 59% of teachers remain in the profession. Now I wonder why teacher retention is so awful. Teachers were frontline workers during the pandemic, forced to adapt overnight to accommodate, and do what they can to ensure their students get the education they deserve. Even now back in the classroom, teachers must have endless patience, dedication, and passion to do their jobs effectively. There are no days off.

Finally, I am sure you have heard of the phrase, “those who can’t do teach”. Well, such foolishness, and idiocrasy is infuriating to me as a young woman. I very much can “do”, and I shall prove that statement wrong, as thousands have done in the past, and as the women teaching at Leeds Beckett have.

From the minds of Dr Gillian Dyson-Moss, Dr Anne Schiffer, Dr Joanna Leah and Lizzie Coombes, the manifesto, which was initiated in January 2023, showcases the academic and non-academic female staff working at Leeds Beckett and exhibits hanging portraits of them.

The emotional impact of these portraits was surprising to me at first. It was empowering to see their faces and to know that I too will someday become part and such a large and intelligent community of women, who dedicates their life to further knowledge and helping the next generations succeed in their chosen path.

Amongst these portraits I saw my own tutors, the women who helped my gain my degree, and who managed to keep me from going round the bend sometimes! The gratitude I have for these women, to sticking by me, and never letting themselves faulter, in bringing riveting classes to us students, week after week, I will forever eternalise this devotion with love and the passion that has been created in me. It all stems from them.

The exhibition is a visual representation that female teachers deserve after being subject to countless years of sexist and gender discriminatory acts in the education system, and workplace. I believe that more schools and universities should represent their female staff in such a delightful and honouring way.

I suggest that everyone, young and old, male, or female, go and view this refreshing and important manifesto. And make sure to acknowledge and appreciate the hard work that our past generations did to ensure a women’s right to educate, and to be educated.

Hi there, I’m Emma, a Masters student at Leeds Beckett studying education. I did English Literature for my bachelors, where my true love lies for all things writing, and have deep dived into poetry and gothic fiction for years. This has lead me to take a deeper look into my own life and create work of my own. As much as I am a Manchester girl at heart, moving to Leeds has aided in curating a new sense of self, who’s ready to explore the world of writing and push myself, as I have done with Leeds 2023 Lift the Lid. I have discovered a new style of writing and interviewing, and cannot wait to explore the world for an exciting investigatory viewpoint. Emma Coghlan, Lift the Lid: 23 Voices participant