Lindsay Lyons

Leadership Coach

High School Teacher Lindsay Lyons

Lindsay Lyons

Lindsay Lyons (she/her) is an educational justice coach who works with teachers and school leaders to inspire educational innovation for racial and gender justice, design curricula grounded in student voice, and build capacity for shared leadership. Lindsay taught in NYC public schools, holds a PhD in Leadership and Change, and is the founder of the educational blog and podcast,

Time for Teachership.

Using Intersectional Feminism to Reimagine Work

One of the best parts of my work is the rush of energy I feel when a new idea sparks in my brain. Typically, this happens during my morning runs while listening to a podcast. Occasionally, it happens in the shower. The most exciting and energizing ideas are ones that reimagine ways of doing things.

I’ve reimagined my work week, asking “What would it look like to work just 20 hours a week? Is it possible? What would that mean for my quality of life?” Allowing myself time to let my mind wander and finding creative sources of inspiration that will prompt my brain to reimagine ways of doing and ways of being has been challenging, but incredibly worthwhile.

I try to make time for this practice each day, and I encourage you to do the same. Today, let’s spend time reimagining our workplaces. They could really use a change.

Let’s reimagine our hiring and pay policies.

The data alone highlights how little women are valued in the workplace. Women are at least 27% less likely to even get a job than men (New York Times). If they are able to secure a job, once they are there, they face at least a one in four chance of facing sexual harassment at work (Fairy God Boss). For those who hold onto a full-time position, women are paid far less than their male counterparts. This fact seems to be well-known, but oversimplified.

Here’s the reality:

  • In the United States, on average, for every dollar a white man makes, white women make approximately 79 cents, Black women make 63 cents, Indigenous women make 60 cents, and Latina women make 55 cents (National Women’s Law Center).
  • While Asian women as a broad category make 87 cents to a white man’s dollar, the gap ismuch larger for some subgroups of Asian women. For example, Nepalese, Burmese, and Fijian women all make less than or equal to 55 cents to a white man’s dollar (NWLC).
  • Over a 40-year career, pay gaps result in a loss of over half a million dollars for white women, nearly one million dollars for Black women, and more than one million dollars for Indigenous and Latina women (Center for American Progress).
  • Women with dis/abilities are paid 67 cents to a man without a disability (NWLC). In fact, it’s legal in the U.S. to pay someone with a dis/ability less than minimum wage (U.S. Departmentof Labor)!


Let’s reimagine an organizational culture that prioritizes safety, belonging, and dignity.

We absolutely need to rethink our hiring practices to open opportunity to folx who have been excluded, but we also need to devote significant effort to creating organizational cultures that areplaces incoming employees and leaders want to be in (i.e., places of safety, belonging, and dignity). The growing focus on improving hiring practices without investing in an evolution of workplace culture speaks to our tendency to “add women and stir” (Harding, 1995). This approach is not transformative. It just preserves what bell hooks calls “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.”

We can create workplaces that value experience and enable all people to be their full selves at work. We can value leaders and employees who demonstrate vulnerability, admit when they get something wrong, and invite more people into the decision-making table. We can remove the artificial barrier of being “apolitical,” enable people to bring the multiplicity of their identities to work, cultivate the critical consciousness of our organization and its members, and support workers’ identity-based activism. Anything less than this sends a strong message that (some) people in the organization are not valued for who they are as human beings.

Let’s reimagine the martyrdom mindset.

Women are socialized to be caretakers, to put others first. This frequently translates into what Emilie Aries refers to as a “martyrdom mindset” at work, which ultimately leads to burnout. Burnout has negative consequences for individuals and their organizations, so there are both human and financial reasons for leaders to tackle this issue.

As a teacher, staying late after school and working on weekends seemed like a badge of honor. I thought it meant I cared more for my students. Then, I read the research and realized that teacher burnout predicted student academic outcomes and is correlated with lower levels of student motivation and increased student stress (Lever, Mathis, & Mayworm, 2017). I knew I needed to change how I worked, but it took time to reimagine a better work life without many alternative models. One thing that helped was my principal shouting “Go home!” to any teacher she saw working late as she modeled leaving on time.

Another way this showed up in my career was when I left my full-time teaching job to become a coach and consultant for schools. Teachers, even complete strangers, felt compelled to let me know I was being selfish leaving “the trenches” of teaching. This is another example of the martyrdom mindset in action, and if teachers (or any employee) begin to see their work as a burden that’s meant to be endured, it’s likely the students (and the organization) will suffer. This common response to women moving into leadership roles also speaks to the necessity of what Mary Church Terrell and the NACW named “lifting as we climb.”

A call to action

Given the myriad of challenges, it’s understandable why women feel uncertain about challenging their bosses and organizations to change things up. But, it also highlights the necessity for change. The way things are now is not sustainable and it’s not just. As a leadership scholar, I subscribe to the idea that anyone can lead, whether you’re in a managerial position or an entry-level employee.

I often encourage leaders and teachers to “think big, act brave, and be your best self.” Transformative, lasting change requires us to reimagine what’s possible, take worthwhile risks, and ensure we’re not burning ourselves out doing it