This year, St. Edmund’s College, one of Cambridge University’s 31 colleges, celebrated its 50th year of admitting women by honoring 50 St. Edmund’s women who have studied or taught at the college. One of those women is Dr. Amy Brereton, the Vice President for Academics at Endeavor Schools, who was recognized for her research exploring young children’s perspectives of school, how they evaluate their own progress as learners, and her work to improve support networks for working mothers at the university.
Dr. Brereton’s connections to Cambridge run deep. After graduating from Gordon College in Wenham, MA, she matriculated to Cambridge University in 2001 for graduate study in Educational Research, obtaining both an MPhil and a PhD. In addition to her studies, she was a Woman’s Officer at the university and promoted support networks and programs for female students balancing motherhood and scholarship.
‘Working mothers have the drive’
Dr. Brereton experienced what it was like to be a working mother at Cambridge University herself when she returned in 2010 for post-doctoral research and was five months pregnant with twins. Working on a research project with Dr. Lani Florian, a world class scholar who developed the concept of inclusive pedagogy, a method of teaching that promotes inclusivity to heighten academic achievement of all children in a learning community, Dr. Brereton had a simple list of priorities.
“Deliver babies, keep babies alive and collect data,” Brereton said.
But the simplicity was deceptive because the physical toll was great. Once her twins were born, it was not easy to care for two new babies while working on a demanding research project that required collecting data at preschools in England and Scotland, in addition to conducting literature reviews at the University Library. The physical toll caused Dr. Brereton to question whether she would be able to complete the academic work she traveled all the way to Britain to conduct. Sitting in Dr. Florian’s home, Dr. Brereton admitted her self-doubts.
“I don’t know if I can do this,” she said. “I’m only sleeping two to four hours a night. How am I ever going to give you the quality of work I want to give you?”
“The question is: ‘Do you want to do the work?’” the professor asked.
“Yes,” Brereton replied.
“Then I think you will find a way because I have found that working mothers have the drive and stamina to deliver excellent results,” Dr. Florian said.
At that point, it had only been 40 years since Cambridge University allowed women. But Dr. Florian pointed to the numerous examples of women who simultaneously succeeded in scholarship and motherhood. It was difficult, but they persevered and paved the way for future women.
“Many women in history gave up a lot, so that you wouldn’t have to sacrifice one for the other,” Dr. Florian said.
Looking back, Dr. Brereton said that moment in Dr. Florian’s home made a lasting impact.
“I realized I had a choice,” Dr. Brereton said. “With the right support, I could choose to work if I wanted to.”
Finding Balance at Endeavor Schools
After becoming a mother, Dr. Brereton became more efficient with her time.
“Prior to having children, I was able to work 12 hours straight and think about nothing but work, which I thought was a positive thing because long hours meant hard work,” she said. “The way I think about work now, as a mother, makes me work smarter.”
Brereton added: “I don’t work for the long spans of time like I used to, but I work smarter, which has made my work better. I’m more focused because I know that if I waste any time during work hours, it will come out of my family time later.”
Endeavor Schools manages 50 schools across the country, including approximately 1,500 teachers and teaching assistants. As the Vice President for Academics at Endeavor Schools, Brereton oversees the curricula for each of its schools. Managing a demanding career while raising a family can be challenging, but Dr. Brereton said Endeavor Schools has a company culture that supports working mothers.
A Supportive Work Environment for Women and Working Mothers
When Dr. Brereton was a Woman’s Officer at Cambridge University, she worked hard to build and expand programs that improve student quality of life for women. Knowing how important that work was left an impression on her, which is one reason she is proud of the work culture that Endeavor Schools has created.
Approximately 95 percent of Endeavor Schools’ employees are women and the company puts great effort into supporting women in the workplace, such as offering competitive pay, development programs and opportunities for advancement.
Danielle Millman, the Chief Operations Officer at Endeavor Schools, said the work of women should always be held in high esteem and compensated accordingly, especially in the education field.
“When it comes to early childhood education, women are the driving force.” Millman said. “We acknowledge the importance of women and hold them up as professionals and experts in education. We invest in our educators and want to ensure they are well cared for, compensated, continually developed, and given plenty of opportunities for advancement.”
In addition to having a 95 percent women workforce, 98 percent of leadership positions at individual schools, including Regional Directors, School Leaders and Assistant School Leaders, are held by women.
With her experiences as a Women’s Officer and working mother at Cambridge University shaping her outlook on workplace situations for women, Dr. Brereton said she couldn’t be prouder to work at Endeavor Schools.
“Endeavor Schools was founded in 2012 and already has a strong track record of equity in pay and leadership,” she said. “This company is solid proof that equity can be accomplished if the success of women is a priority. And at Endeavor Schools, women are a priority.”