Sexism in International Schools

An ISR member recently made a request. She had been suffering under a Director who regularly made sexist remarks and wanted to know if her situation was an isolated one.

..In response, we discovered 61 School Reviews/Admin Reports that contain the term “sexist.” Of the 10,000+ Reviews hosted on International Schools Review, this figure represents less than 1% of all Reviews. Although the percentage is thankfully low, it does sound an alarm that something is terribly wrong at some International Schools, as exemplified by the following excerpt from an ISR Director Report:

The Director continuously shouted, threatened, belittled and publicly humiliated me and other female teachers throughout the period I was under contract. After I left the school in June, 2016, I received this abusive email from the Director when I requested money due me…

“Your advice is meaningless. You are beneath me in every possible way so your opinion matters as much to me as mine does to Mr. Obama. You are old and you probably don’t have many years left before you return to hell and we have gotten enough laughs out of you already. (Leather mini skirt for someone as old as you, really?!? LOL) Please just die or quit emailing…or both.”  Members can sign in to read entire Review

..ISR asks: In what universe is harassment such as this not a prosecutable offense? Unfortunately, in some lawless voids, individuals who would otherwise find themselves on the losing end of a lawsuit, consider themselves free to abuse defenseless teachers.

Excerpts from other Reviews increase our cause for alarm:

  This director needs to be investigated for his sexist remarks that are completely inappropriate

  Unsupportive, judgmental, unapproachable, dishonest, lacks integrity, poor leadership skills, intimidating towards staff and students, sexist (hates women)

  His lack of knowledge results in a complex environment that prevents him from acknowledging good work completed by competent teachers, but instead valuing those that serve as his yes-men (men being the operative word, as his sexism is blatant)

  His sexist (sometimes racist) remarks were a constant. No racial minorities are represented amongst staff

  Once again, good ole boys’ drinking culture, racism, sexism, reserved and restricted privileges and practices which often define “international schools”

  He is a pathological liar and extremely unprofessional. He is sexist and racist. He dresses in very inappropriate clothing and is embarrassing to work for

  Mid-management is very sexist and your status is dependent on how much time you spend in the office complimenting each other on how great you are…and I am a man saying this

  Did his best to make this even more of a hardship post than it already was. He’s a sexist who grunts and acts like a caveman and chooses favorite teachers to be in his “inner circle.” Absolutely no focus on creative, progressive ideas. VERY sexist! Huge double standard and outrageous amount of males in senior staff positions

..It goes without saying that sexism goes hand-in-hand with other undesirable qualities. And although it may be difficult, if not impossible, to stop school sexism in countries that lack anti-harassment laws, it IS possible to avoid signing on to work in such schools, thus motivating school boards and school owners to re-evaluate their choice of administrative individuals. The teacher who requested ISR query our database for occurrences of the term “sexist” is most certainly not alone.

Teachers Keeping Each Other Informed is what International Schools is All About.  


26 thoughts on “Sexism in International Schools

  1. Yes, international schools are magnets from creeps. And it’s not only the admin. Look at the pederast William Vahey. His activities were covered by admin. while he did horrible things to hundreds of boys. And then take a look at your own students. In many cultures, women are denigrated. They are mere chattel. Wow, and how about throwing in race? Pity the poor black girl in a sea of pale faces. Class is yet another ugly side to international schools since few make any real effort to address economic disparities. A veritable can of worms.


    1. What a stupid comment about Bill Vahey. No administrator knowingly covered for him, any more than other teachers knowingly covered for him.


    2. Way off base there. Supervisor in Nicaragua let him leave the country without informing the Nicaraguan authorities. This meant that we will never know the full extent of his crimes. And he had time to destroy evidence. But then the supervisor was close friends with Vahey’s wife. There were also plenty of warning signs that admin. ignored in various schools. Get your facts straight.


  2. Ooh ..sounds like my director. He’s often hungover and regularly dyes his hair and moustache. He is also afraid to confront male teachers who regularly arrive late for work, leave early and go off campus (against the rules) for coffee breaks.


    1. Wow, only females should dye their hair then? It’s not acceptable for males? You sound pretty “sexist” to me.


    2. It is sexist, “dude.” Again, it’s “vane” for a man to dye his hair, but not a women? Why would he be a laughing stock? Pretty normal nowadays, “dude”. You, your co-workers, and even the students sound like judgmental jerks. Please name the school so that I can avoid it in the future. I would hate to do something to try to improve my appearance and get ridiculed for it.


  3. I am tired of old directors with young Asian wives only hiring male teachers in the same marital situation. These guys always tend to sexist towards Western female teachers. In fact, insecure male directors can’t deal with assertive women. Need more women in upper administration.


  4. It goes both ways; I witnessed a female superintendent in Portugal, a British woman, rip into a male teacher, in an open-plan corridor, about his attire. Those of us who overheard the attack were left nothing short of mortified. While what she raised was relevant, the way in which she delivered her blows were was nothing short of cruel and personal. A rant. She completely wigged-out causing the man much discomfort and personal pain. It is a scene a few of us to this day will not forget. The woman was a big bully (physically big too) who used her position of power to rule with fear. A few of us rallied around the teacher for weeks after – he was emotionally broken by the attack and did say it would take him years, if ever to recover. But, the wheel turns, the International teaching world is small, people move on, but people do not forget. From what I understand, such encounters have already started catching up with this woman as she is on job number 2 since leaving Portugal, short of 3 years ago.


  5. I would say this is an industry where sexism exists more towards men than women. Women are more likely hired for positions abroad simply because they are women – especially young primary teachers. All the female directors I’ve had commented on how girls are smarter than boys; further, paternity leave basically does not exist for men overseas, and I’ve observed that schools are much more understanding when women break contracts, as opposed to men.


    1. I agree with this review as I can attest to the “girls clubs being much more powerful than boys clubs” and the members can be pretty lethal, because, what you see is most certainly not what what you get or what is being said.


    2. Strongly disagree with this. It’s the male teacher cliques who go drinking and are “buddies” in the work place as a result. They stick up for each other and try to slide them into any extra stipend positions. Some schools prefer males and some prefer hiring young females – it all depends on the school and the director’s preferences.


  6. Sexism starts in the interviews. As a female with a male “trailing spouse” I am asked a long list of questions about why my husband is a stay at home dad.
    What exactly does he do all day? Why isn’t he working? Why isn’t he at least taking some online courses to better himself? What kind of education does he have? Does he speak the native language? How do you feel about supporting him on just one salary?
    Of course I do not know what is asked about stay at home moms. I do understand some of it is that they do not want unhappy partners at home. But still, I feel this line of interrogation is irrelevant to my skills and performance as a professional.


    1. At least you know it’s a place to not work, or they’ve been burned by teachers with unhappy/isolated partners before.
      I get the exact same line of questioning regarding my wife every time I look outside Japan, even in Australia when I look just think about going back. This is from female and males heads!


  7. I find that makes receive the most discrimination in international schools! This goes by terms of dress code and just job availability.

    While inappropriate and derogatory comments are unacceptable, what was this teacher thinking wearing a leather mini skirt to work?

    Personally I am tired of women coming to school with their breast half hanging out or their underwear flashing every time they bend down. Male teachers constantly have the whole pedophile stigma thrown at them yet who are these female teachers trying to impress with their boob and panty flashes?


    1. Nothing to do with judging values. Low cut tops and mini skirts should be regarded as inappropriate wear for teaching, it’s just stupid to think otherwise! When males are constantly dressed up as penguins and wearing any form of jewelry is a huge deal!


  8. At a chain school in Shanghai (with campuses in Puxi, Pudong, and Hangzhou) the board of directors and principals (all good old boys) are infamous for their sexist behavior, especially targeted towards young and attractive female teachers. A principal at one of the schools touched and kissed on the lips (without invitation) a couple of female teachers but since the board of directors and him are good friends these teachers were intimidated into silence. When it was finally leaked out, more of his victims spoke up and it was discovered that this principal had a long history of sexual harassment in other schools too.


  9. In an interview at an international school, I was asked by a women vice principle, if I was planning to be pregnant in the near future because that would be an inconvience for their school. Smsh…got the job but turned it down.


  10. I work at a school where sexism was rampant. The director verbally attacked female teachers and stayed clear of any confrontation with the men. After a big confrontation with one of the female teachers he told the woman’s husband that, “us guys need to stick together – you know how these woman are!” What in the hell did he expect the husband to do? Side with him? Fortunately this jerk has since been put out to pasture. I highly recommend heeding the warning when reviews speak of sexism.


    1. There is too much of this stuff going on. I’ve often seen female teachers bullied by male directors who never get into disputes with male teachers.. they often have submissive wives and little respect for women.


  11. One day, while working overseas in the middle school of an international school, I was wearing blue pants and a top. The principal said I looked like I was dressed for camping. Meanwhile, he was wearing what looked like a bowling shirt, so no tie. Another time, he claimed the leader of the country would call him about sand days and he would then call all the teachers. I commented about the phone chart organized by his secretary. The next day He told me to never challenge his authority again. He often came in with a hangover or the appearance of an alcoholic.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.