The Faculty of Education celebrates some of the women who plays a crucial role in the growth and development of the faculty during Women’s Month. Prof Doria Daniels from the Educational Psychology Department shares about her career journey, leadership roles, challenges and encourages women to make their voices heard.
Tell about your leadership roles and some challenges you experienced.
I started out as a high school teacher who had been in leadership roles within and outside the workspace. I am also a lifelong learner. My PhD in International and Intercultural Education from a highly respected Research-1 university in the USA cemented my confidence in my capabilities and facilitated my transition to a higher education position. I believe that there are many capable, ambitious women who just need the playing fields to be levelled for them to take on leadership positions.
I was headhunted by SU for the position of Director of Community Interaction during a period in our country’s history when higher education institutions were mandated by government to transform.
When I decided to leave my position as Director of Community Interaction to return to academia, the Faculty of Education offered me a teaching position in the Department of Educational Psychology. They knew my competencies as I developed a research module for the B Ed Educational Psychology programme as well as taught it whilst I was in my other position. I refused their offer and instead suggested that they advertise the job so that I could apply and compete for it.
Advice to women in leadership positions?
If you are ambitious and aspire to become a leader, take charge of the situation! Start by increasing your visibility in the institution. Claim your voice and foreground your accomplishments so that it becomes impossible to ignore you.
I believe that strong leadership in women are enhanced by “feminine” qualities such as collaboration, and inclusion, and that it should be up there alongside the qualities of self-assuredness and decisiveness.
I would like to encourage women to be more supportive of one other. There are still too few women in senior positions, making the higher ranks a lonely place to be. Women leaders should take on the responsibility to initiate equitable change in our institution and smooth the pathway for other senior women to advance easier up the leadership ladder. Inquire about women’s wellness and their careers and share your experiences with them. Offer advice when asked.
How do you manage to balance work and personal life?
Family and community are very important to me. I am part of a big extended family network that keeps me grounded. In recent years I became an active lobbyist for our local primary school. As the school’s alumni association we lobby for financial and community support and invest in the early childhood development of its children.
I try to never let my work take over my life. However, the reality is that, in South African communities, women are the caregivers and are the ones making the sacrifices when children or elderly parents become ill or need support.
Who inspired you to be a leader?
I was raised by parents who modelled active citizenship. My father was the first feminist that I knew. His investment in his three daughters was for us to become great human beings. I was also very fortunate to have had many examples of strong female leadership in my family and community. My maternal great grandmother and grandmother were part of a community women’s group who worked tirelessly to raise enough money to build our community school. One of my aunts was a savvy businesswoman who built her highly successful clothing store. These women were examples of strong, emancipated women. They were successful in life, despite the race, gender, or class restrictions of their time. They were my role models, and what I aspired to become in life.
- Author: Elbie Els