26 SES 02 B, Gender-aware and Inclusive Leadership and Management
In this paper, we explore the space between the desire to further ones’ career and fulfil ambition, and the inherent barriers present when aspiring to leadership roles. Through a series of 36 interviews with women in boys’ schools we explore the leadership aspirations and experiences of a group of women across six secondary schools who have limited access to leadership and power compared to their male colleagues. We explore the hierarchical structure of leadership ever present in boys’ schools which precludes women from senior leadership and privileges men. Our research reveals the way women develop their identity as a leader despite the challenges they face in a context that privileges hegemonic hierarchy.
The objectives of this paper are to analyse the leadership experiences and observations of female teachers in boys’ secondary schools to better understand how women develop an identity as a leader in circumstances that limit their leadership opportunity.
The paper explores their leadership aspirations with the reality that their inability to progress their careers is due to the male centred hierarchical leadership structures within their workplace. In order to explore female teacher identities and leadership aspirations, the lived experiences of female teachers are examined to better understand whether they possess choice and freedom in realising their aspirations. Whilst there is a body of research focused on the impact of a feminised teaching workforce, little attention has been placed on the experiences of female teachers when working in single sex male environments and the impact of a patriarchal environment on their opportunities and ambitions.
Although women account for the vast majority of teachers in Europe (particularly at the primary level) ( The Eurydice Network, 2013) and worldwide (Moreau, Osgood and Halsall, 2007; Shakeshaft, 1989) there continues to be a disparity in the number of women leading educational institutions that becomes pronounced in upper secondary education. For example in Europe female head teachers drop from 70 to 80 % in Primary schools to between 30 – 50 % in upper secondary schools (The Eurydice Network, 2013). In Australia this trend is magnified in single sex boys schools where patriarchal leadership structures exclude women from senior leadership roles protecting a male dominated hierarchical structure.
This paper engages theoretically with a body of research into female teachers’ leadership aspirations and lived realities. Albeit teaching has historically been perceived as women’s work often associated with motherhood (Apple 1986, p. 60), within broader debates on gender equality, what is referred to as the feminisation of teaching has in fact contributed to economic empowerment of women worldwide solidifying opportunities for employment, particularly in developing countries. So, whilst improving the wellbeing and outcomes for some, teaching continues to be viewed as a gendered profession aligned with a so called maternal instinct.
Although leadership ought not to be conflated between sex and gender, this paper explores how boys’ schools exercise leadership in a patriarchal way often excluding women and privileging men, perpetuating ‘masculine’ leadership. In a patriarchal environment, a woman’s style of leadership is typically seen to be ‘softer’; flexible, democratic, valuing openness, caring and compassionate and focussed on relationships none of which appear to be essential within linear hierarchical models. Within this, Nodding’s (1984) Ethics of Care is explored, which acknowledges that personal relationships, kindness, compassion and commitment are important aspects of teaching and leadership and caring for another in turn teaches one to care about others. Finally, in this paper we explore how female teachers have constructed their teacher and leader identities fighting against the gender stereotypes that continue to stifle them in their schools.
This paper emerges from research into the experiences of female teachers and leaders by focusing on fieldwork conducted across six boys’ schools within the state of Victoria, Australia. The data was combined with an extensive literature review which provided a comparative analysis of female teachers’ work in Australia and more broadly. Deliberate efforts were made to ensure that the construction of the study sample consisted of teachers with various backgrounds, experience and roles across schools with student populations from diverse racial, socio-economic and geographical backgrounds. The sample purposefully included Catholic, Independent and Government schools. Six female teachers in each school were interviewed, resulting in a total of thirty-six participants. A constructivist grounded theory (CGT) (Charmaz, 1995, 2002, 2006) approach was adopted with data collected using a qualitative research design consisting of one hour semi-structured interview with each participant. This method of interviewing became a valuable means of deriving a sense of the participants’ subjective experience and given the grounded, open-ended and exploratory nature of the interviews, the rich data generated provided an opportunity for complex analyses and reporting. The interview was divided into two sections. The first required personal information such as the participant’s name, age, school, years of teaching experience, teaching background, and current role in the school. This information provided a starting point for the interview, established an initial discussion which then eased the interview into the next stage. The second section centred on motivational factors in applying for their current job, challenges and difficulties, likes and dislikes, and issues and experiences confronted whilst working in an all boys’ school. The research focus for this stage of the interview was supported through the design of broad questions, which sought to explore which aspects about working in boys’ schools most affect female teachers, whether they feel supported and if in fact there are difficulties in obtaining senior leadership roles in boys’ schools. The questions in the interviews focused on understanding each participant’s experience of working in a boys’ school and were purposefully non-prescriptive in order to not drive the participants to preconceived conclusions, broadly formulated in order to allow for individual interpretation. As data emerged, it became clear that many of the experiences of the participants in the study were similar, and through a process of coding, a set of common themes emerged which included: ways of leading, managing expectations and negotiating a role in male dominated work environments.
Findings reveal that the role of the women in boys’ schools provides a strong reminder that without change to structure, access to social power will be limited and gender hierarchy will be preserved. This is despite ‘empowerment’ espoused by new femininities and theidentity work that the women undertake to position themselves as leaders. Research findings suggest that male domination within leadership in a feminized profession is a difficult cycle to break and perpetuates a continuous cycle of hierarchical leadership. Attaining senior leadership roles for the women in this study was all but impossible. Discourse surrounding this issue saw an unwillingness to create gender balance as a direct result of existing leadership structures in boys’ schools. Female teachers felt blocked, and at times helpless. Despite this the female teachers carve out a place in boys’ schools, creating a distinction in their style of leadership to enable them to feel they have a place in the organisation. Their leadership is marked by ‘caring’ This though is defined in terms of the needs of the boys rather than in terms of their own ambition. Despite considerable gender inequity and lack of access to leadership they still define the area they can influence in terms of the needs of the organisation that includes developing ‘well rounded’ young men as part of its mission. Ways of leading were heavily based on female/male binaries that confirm the existing gender hierarchy. In these schools this led to an essentialising practice of what it is to be “naturally female” (Blackmore, 1999) and as the women attempted to construct their identity as a leader the focus was placed back on the women to accommodate and complement male leadership roles.
Apple, M. (1986). Teachers and Texts: A Political Economy of Class and Gender Relations in Education. New York, NY: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Blackmore, J. (1999). Troubling Women: Feminism, Leadership and Educational Change, Buckingham. UK: Open University Press. Charmaz, K. (1995). Grounded Theory. In J. Smith, R. Harré, & L. Langenhove (Eds.), Rethinking Methods in Psychology. (pp. 27-65). London: Sage. Charmaz, K. (2002). Grounded Theory: Methodology and Theory Construction. In J. Smith (Ed.), Contemporary Field Research. (pp. 109-126). Prospect Heights, IL: Wavel and Press. Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide Through Qualitative Analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. The Eurydice Network (2013) Key data on teachers and School leaders in Europe, http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/education/eurydice/key_data_en.php Downloaded 28/1/2018 Moreau, M., Osgood, J., & Halsall, A. (2007). Making Sense of the Glass Ceiling in Schools: An Exploration of Women’s Teachers Discourses. Gender and Education, 19(2), 237-53. Noddings, N. (1984). Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education. Berkeley: University of California Press. Shakeshaft, C. (1989). Women in Educational Administration, Newbury Park, Sage.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
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Network 10. Teacher Education Research
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Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
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Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
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Network 24. Mathematics Education Research
Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
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