Thoughts on ELT, English and whatever else comes into my head
A guest post from Claire Venables, co-founder of Voices SIG at BrazTESOL.
In the 80s there was a UK-based group called Women in TEFL. Pre-email and social media, they organised conferences and events, mostly aimed at management training as there was a real lack of women in managerial positions. Fast forward three decades and, though the original founders are still well known teachers and ELT authors, the events stopped running. Maybe they achieved their aims through connecting women at their events and giving them the skills and inspiration to move up the ELT career ladder as women seem better represented in ELT, in the UK at least.
Where I work in Brazil, I’m not so sure that’s the case. Gender is a huge issue here. I’ve heard of women having to attend special sessions on orientation days to make sure they’re prepared for how to do their makeup at work. Women starting out in ELT are often automatically expected to take Young Learner classes while their male counterparts are not and many other examples of inequality.
So when I got the chance to co-organise a pre-conference event at Innovate ELT, in May in Barcelona, Celebrating women in ELT: Reflect, empower, act with Nicola Prentis, I jumped at the chance to contribute.
Though … I didn’t exactly jump.
Funnily enough, Nicola’s plenary at Innovate ELT last year “Three reasons why I shouldn’t be giving this plenary” had been the catalyst for lots of positive changes in my career. She talked about imposter syndrome and how it can hold you back. She cited a Hewlett Packard stat about how women tend to apply for a job or promotion only when they feel they meet at least 99% of the requirements, while men will give it a shot with only 60% of the criteria met. It really resonated with where I was at professionally. So, actually, when she asked me, I wondered if I could do it. But I recognised that little voice in my head as the one she’d been talking about. Just because I might have only felt 60% ready to co-run an event, I wasn’t going to let that stop me.
I’ll be leading a coaching session at the conference to help others benefit from the mindset I left Innovate ELT with last year. I went back to Brazil with my batteries charged and with lots of ideas and inspiration. When I return to Barcelona this year, it’s with a strong desire to help others benefit from what I’ve discovered and experienced since Innovate ELT last year My session will motivate and get people thinking about where they are in their careers and why, with practical steps and strategies to achieve their goals and avoid the mind traps that derail us.
We’ve invited Brazilian speaker and teacher trainer Ilá Coimbra, a leading voice in gender issues in Braxil, to give a talk on gender and how it affects the classroom. How do women benefit or not in the ELT classroom the way it is set up now? And how is gender represented in the materials we use? Ilá, a bit like me, was inspired by attending another conference — in her case IATEFL. “I attended many sessions to do with queer ELT,” she says “and about representation in the classroom. And it got me thinking not only about LGBTIQ communities in ELT but also the gender issue which is still problematic. Since then I’ve been reading, talking and presenting about that and issues to do with sexuality, identity, ethnic background.”
And, I’m also looking forward to Nicola’s talk which looks like a first in ELT as it maps the history of the industry from the point of view of the women who shaped it. That’s a legacy we can all celebrate and I hope our conference inspires the next wave of women in ELT to take that jump and change their own futures and the future of ELT.
Celebrating Women in ELT: Reflect, empower, act is on May 5th in Barcelona before Innovate ELT on May 5-6. Places are limited, tickets cost 60€ and include a discount on the main conference entry. Follow the links for more information and how to buy.
Claire Venables has been in ELT since 2001. She has wide-ranging experience as a teacher, trainer and DoS. After a decade in Europe, she moved to Brazil where she is involved in the creation and implementation of EFL programmes for young learners and training for teachers. She is also a founding member of the Voices SIG, which promotes gender equality and career development for women in ELT.