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Gender and Leadership in Education

Women Achieving Against the Odds

by Kay Fuller (Volume editor) Judith Harford (Volume editor)
Edited Collection VIII, 298 Pages

Summary

The under-representation of women in leadership positions in educational settings is a widely acknowledged, complex phenomenon that seems to persist, despite the fact that teaching as a profession is dominated by women. Over recent decades, scholars have investigated the factors contributing towards this under-representation, with a particular focus on the personal, organisational and social/cultural levels.
This volume has been compiled in honour of Marianne Coleman, Emeritus Reader in Educational Leadership and Management at the Institute of Education, University College London. She is widely regarded as one of the most significant scholars globally in the field of gender and educational leadership, forging the research agenda and mentoring some of the scholars who contribute essays here. Amongst the key questions the book asks are: Why does society continue to accept male leaders as the norm? What barriers do women who seek leadership positions face? What supports do women require in order to encourage them to pursue leadership positions? How do women working in leadership positions conceive of their role as leaders? How might women’s educational leadership be best supported at an institutional level?

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Tony Bush - Foreword
  • Kay Fuller and Judith Harford - A Festschrift for Marianne Coleman
  • Izhar Oplatka - The Research on Gender in the Field of Educational Management: A Journals-Based Historical Overview of an Area of Study
  • Jacky Lumby - Culture and Otherness in Gender Studies: Building on Marianne Coleman’s Work
  • Victoria Showunmi - Diversity and Education in England
  • Joan Smith - Motherhood and Women Teachers’ Career Decisions: A Constant Battle
  • Kay Fuller - Headteacher Preparation: An Account of One Woman Headteacher’s Supportive Practices
  • Mary Cunneen and Judith Harford - Gender Matters: Women’s Experience of the Route to Principalship in Ireland
  • Jill Sperandio and Jennifer Polinchock - Roads Less Travelled: Female Elementary School Principals Aspiring to the School District Superintendency
  • Tanya Fitzgerald - Venturing into the Habitat of the Powerful: Women Leaders in Higher Education
  • Margaret Grogan and Klara Wahlster - In Books, on the Screen, and in Games: Leadership and Gender Stereotypes Shape Images of Young Women Leaders
  • Pontso Moorosi - Patriarchal Bargain for African Women in Leadership: Deal or No Deal?
  • Helen Sobehart - Weaving the Fabric of Legacy: An Epilogue
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index

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TONY BUSH

Foreword

I have known Marianne Coleman for more than thirty years. We met when she was a teacher, and head of department of economics and business studies, at what was then Bushey Meads School in Hertfordshire. We worked together for two years and became good friends. A few years later, we met by chance at a teacher professional development day in Hertfordshire. Over lunch, she said: ‘Do you know what I would really like to do? I would like to do research.’ A few months later, I was looking for a research assistant for a Leverhulme Trust-funded project on grant-maintained schools. I contacted her and, following much thought and discussion with her husband John, she gave up a permanent position with Hertfordshire Local Authority to accept a short-term post with the University of Leicester. Her distinguished research career started in this modest way.

It will surprise nobody reading this book to learn that Marianne was outstandingly successful in this role. Despite little formal research knowledge or experience, she was excellent in her fieldwork and in writing research reports and chapters for the book that we wrote with our colleague Derek Glover. When the contract ended, after a short gap she was appointed as a lecturer in Leicester’s Educational Management Development Unit (EMDU), where she worked alongside several other colleagues who have become leading researchers and writers in educational leadership and management. These include David Middlewood, Ann Briggs, John West-Burnham, John O’Neill, Les Bell, Mark Brundrett and Jacky Lumby, a contributor to this volume.

While at Leicester, Marianne registered for a PhD and decided to focus on women principals in secondary schools. This was the start of her engagement with leadership and gender. I was fortunate to be Marianne’s supervisor, the easiest such role in more than twenty years of doctoral supervision. Her research involved a survey of all women secondary school heads and follow-up interviews with some of them. Her external examiner was Valerie Hall, who sadly died a few years later at the very early age of just fifty-nine. ← vii | viii → Valerie was almost certainly the leading UK writer on gendered leadership before her untimely demise and, in a sense, the baton passed to Marianne.

Marianne’s contribution to research on women leaders is immense. Her questionnaire with UK heads was adapted for use by other academics, including Kay Fuller, as the introduction to this volume attests. She also conducted research on gender in several other countries, including China, Hong Kong and South Africa. She was also an obvious choice when Megan Crawford and I co-edited the fortieth-anniversary issue of Educational Management, Administration and Leadership (EMAL) and wanted to include a paper on leadership and diversity.

Her distinctive contribution to the field in the UK was in building a solid evidence base to underpin her conclusions and theorising. Much of the writing on gender and management in the twentieth century was normative, based on indignation about the unfair under-representation of women. Marianne’s work helped to build a body of research data to explore and to explain the reasons for the gendered nature of leadership. Her cool analysis moved the debate forward in important ways although she never lost the values which led her to embark on this research in the first place. The only time I can recall her losing her measured approach was in China when we were interviewing a male principal. He explained his commitment to equal opportunities but was challenged by Marianne to explain why there were no women on his school management team. His reply, that women were good at nurturing children but could not see the ‘big picture’ and hence were unsuited to management, angered Marianne but she was still able to maintain a professional approach.

It is my pleasure and privilege to contribute the foreword to this important volume. Kay Fuller and Judith Harford have assembled an impressive cast of authors, including several world-leading researchers on gender and leadership. That such a distinguished group of writers have agreed to contribute to this book demonstrates the high regard for Marianne’s research and writing in this field, and for her excellent personal qualities. I anticipate that this volume will become ‘required reading’ for students and academics in many parts of the world. It is a fitting tribute to a distinguished academic and a wonderful human being.

Tony Bush
Professor of Educational Leadership
University of Nottingham

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KAY FULLER AND JUDITH HARFORD

A Festschrift for Marianne Coleman

The under-representation of women in leadership positions in educational settings is a widely acknowledged, complex phenomenon. This persists, despite the fact that teaching as a profession is dominated by women. Over recent decades, scholars have interrogated this phenomenon with a view to identifying the factors that have contributed to the under-representation of women in leadership positions in education, with a particular focus on the personal, organisational and social/cultural levels. Leadership, Coleman (2011: 37) contends, ‘is a very gendered concept. In a wide variety of cultural contexts, leadership continues to be identified with the male. Even though women occupy positions of leadership and responsibility, there is a tendency to assume that the rightful leader is male.’ Reay and Ball (2000: 145) suggest that ‘management is commonly conceptualized as ‘masculine’, concerned with ‘male qualities of rationality and instrumentality.’ They go on to note that in such contexts, women are ‘more like men than men themselves’ (ibid.). Blackmore (2002) also notes the deeply rooted belief that leadership is a male construct. This accepted norm, she argues, discourages women from pursuing a career in educational leadership as ‘it takes an extraordinary woman to do what an ordinary man does’ (ibid.: 56).

The idea for this book first emerged following the launch of the British Educational Leadership Management and Administration Society (BELMAS) Gender and Leadership Research Interest Group at the Institute of Education in London in April 2013. Marianne Coleman presented on ‘Women in Leadership: Challenges, Choice and Change – An Individual Research Journey’. She looked back at the origins of her interest in gender and leadership, reflected on the major outcomes of surveys conducted in the 1990s and in 2004, as well as more recent research in the period 2010–11. Marianne concluded change was slow but there was improvement in many sectors, largely because of advances in technology ← 1 | 2 → and more family-friendly cultures. However, the difficulties of combining leadership at work with a family life recurred and the presence of mentoring and networking were important support factors. Marianne identified key areas for future research as women’s reluctance to align themselves with feminism; the need to research the intersections of gender with ‘race’/ethnicity, social class and sexuality; the experience of younger women leaders; and leadership in non-Western contexts. The RIG has used these ideas to move forward with their activities by holding their first one-day conference focused on intersectionality.

In the discussion which followed the launch event, it became quickly evident that all present had been deeply influenced by Marianne’s work and indeed many had chosen to pursue research on gender and leadership because of the trail blazed by Marianne many decades previously and because of her inspiration and nurturing. Soon after the event, we approached scholars who had been influenced by Marianne’s work and asked them if they wished to contribute to an essay collection in recognition of her work. The response was overwhelming. The result is a collection of essays from a range of disciplines which collectively interrogate the complexity of the under-representation of women in leadership positions in educational settings internationally. Amongst the key questions the book asks are the following. Why does society continue to accept male leaders as the norm? What barriers do women who seek leadership positions face? What supports do women require in order to encourage them to pursue leadership positions? How do women working in leadership positions conceive of their role as leaders? How might women’s leadership be best supported at an institutional level? At the same time it is vital that we acknowledge women do not comprise a homogenous group. Where women do succeed, they are predominantly white women. There is a need to problematise what has tended to be an essentialist discourse to consider Black and Global Majority women, and men from potentially marginalised groups. We need to ask how far the gender and educational leadership field has embraced multiple gender theories in recent decades to consider how women and men do leadership as well as which women and men do it. The chapters in this book chart the evolving landscape of women in educational leadership, provide a critique of the ← 2 | 3 → interplay between gender, leadership and education, drawing on a range of theoretical perspectives.

The book opened with a foreword from Tony Bush, who recounted his initial meeting with Marianne when she was a secondary school teacher in the UK. Tony reflected on Marianne’s keen interest in research and in gender and leadership in particular, along with her humility and kindness, characteristics, all whom have met her recall. Tony became Marianne’s PhD supervisor and her journey into academia thus began. The opening chapter by Izhar Oplatka, ‘The Research on Gender in the Field of Educational Management: A Journals-Based Historical Overview of an Area of Study’ appropriately provides a historical overview of the emergence of gender and education as a field of study. The paper is intended to enable scholars to grasp the unique development of ‘gender’ in the field of Educational Management (EM) and make sense of its theoretical and applied knowledge both cumulatively and systematically. Jacky Lumby’s chapter ‘Culture and Otherness in Gender Studies: Building on Marianne Coleman’s Work’ focuses on the importance of how those engaging in research on gender inequality position themselves. They are, Lumby notes, typically women, but also of a particular race, culture and history. Positioning raises a range of challenges in relation to the degree of self-awareness and the nature of ‘otherness’ perceived in those studied. This chapter focuses on this fundamental issue, using Marianne’s work as a backdrop and discussing the relationship between the cultural embeddedness of research and the imperative for action to increase gender equality. Jacky provides Marianne’s survey instrument which she notes has been used in many contexts, including by Kay (Fuller 2009). Following on from Lumby, Victoria Showunmi’s chapter ‘Diversity and Education in England’ notes that population structures of schools and school communities in urban Europe in particular have been changing over the last few decades in the context of globalisation, eco-political developments and increased mobility. In the United Kingdom, the increasing diversity of the population is generally perceived as affecting schools’ overall performance through the low achievement of children from many Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups and communities. Yet, this chapter goes on to demonstrate how research has produced varied and even conflicting evidence with regard to a direct link between achievement ← 3 | 4 → and factors such as ethnicity, socio-economic background, population mix, gender and the use of English as a second language.

This chapter is followed by Joan Smith’s exposition on the impact of motherhood on women teachers’ and headteachers’ life and career choices, ‘Motherhood and Women Teachers’ Career Decisions: A Constant Battle’. Drawing on life history interviews with female teachers and headteachers working in secondary schools in the UK, this chapter considers how this cohort of women perceive motherhood to have impacted their career decisions. The chapter closes by considering how shifts in thinking are needed at national, institutional and domestic levels if gender equity in public, private and workplace domains is to be achieved. Staying with the theme of headteachers and career trajectories, Kay Fuller’s chapter ‘Headteacher Preparation: An Account of One Woman Headteacher’s Supportive Practices’ explores the findings from a case study of headteacher preparation practices of a single woman headteacher. It locates twelve practices, constructed by the headteacher and eight former and current members of the senior leadership team (SLT) at a school in the UK in the situated learning literature concerned with communities of practice. Empirical research is used to outline twelve practices as a process of successful headteacher preparation. Finally, a critical analysis reveals that within the SLT position, disposition, capital and power relations impact greatly on an individual’s leadership aspirations and achievement of them. Again on the same theme, and inspired by Marianne’s ground-breaking scholarship on headteachers and career trajectories, in ‘Gender Matters: Women’s Experience of the Route to Principalship in Ireland’ Mary Cunneen and Judith Harford report a study undertaken from a life story perspective in the life history tradition, of the perceived enabling and constraining influences which a cohort of twelve women principals articulate as informing their career pathway to principalship in Ireland. Ireland constitutes a good site for engaging in such research as while it represents international trends, it also has an idiosyncratic dimension; up until the demise of nuns in Catholic girls’ schools, nuns (females) dominated the principalship in girls’ religious-order run schools. Key findings indicate that the perceived challenges women principals in the Republic of Ireland have encountered include the cultural expectations around who should occupy leadership ← 4 | 5 → roles, especially in Catholic-run schools, organisational cultures which do not support childcare-friendly practices and a neoliberal policy agenda which is considered to be at odds with a social justice agenda. Perceived enablers include supportive partners and/or family members as well as the significance of mentors and role models.

In ‘Roads Less Travelled: Female Elementary School Principals Aspiring to the School District Superintendency’, Jill Sperandio and Jennifer Polinchock contend that knowledge of patterns of gender discrimination allows women to position themselves to take on the roles for which they are well-qualified and to which they bring fresh perspectives and leadership styles. This chapter presents research which indicates one group of women – elementary school principals in the USA – are doing just this, by forging non-traditional paths to the top leadership position in US school districts, that of the district superintendent. In ‘Venturing into the Habitat of the Powerful: Women Leaders in Higher Education’, Tanya Fitzgerald draws on Marianne’s work to complicate ‘leadership’ and tease out the ambiguities, silences and contradictions of women’s lived leadership experiences. In particular, she focuses on women leaders in higher education contributing to the debates highlighted in Marianne’s 2011 work Women at the Top, interrogating leadership in higher education as the ‘habitat of the powerful’. Margaret Grogan and Klara Wahlster build on Marianne’s work in ‘In Books, on the Screen, and in Games: Leadership and Gender Stereotypes Shape Images of Young Women Leaders’. The purpose of this exploration is to consider whether contemporary young women are being offered less traditional ways of being in the world through fiction than their mothers and older sisters were. Some questions that guide this exploration include: Are the gender stereotypes identified by Coleman still alive and well in these works? How and where might gender and leadership stereotypes intersect? Are these images likely to influence the next generation of women positively or negatively as they consider leadership options? In ‘Patriarchal Bargain for African Women in Leadership: Deal or No Deal?’, Pontso Moorosi draws on findings from a research project which examines constructions of masculinities by corporate leaders in South Africa, focusing on African women’s experiences sharing their successes in navigating their way to the top while attempting to strike a balance between ← 5 | 6 → family and work. The chapter draws comparisons between these women’s experiences and those examined in Coleman’s work, to demonstrate that in negotiating a balance between work and life, women end up striking a ‘patriarchal bargain’ that is both empowering and disempowering. Central to this argument is the extent to which the patriarchal bargain and the corporate policies that are supposed to enable change and benefit women, perpetuate the stereotypes about the role of men and women at work and in the home. Finally, in a fitting epilogue to the collection, Helen Sobehart, using the metaphor of a tapestry, traces the threads of Marianne’s research charting how her research represents a tapestry of complex, probing and inter-connected threads. These are represented by the warp – the cords of Marianne’s work, the weft – the crossweaves of many artists and the tapestry of legacy. We are delighted to present this collection in celebration of Marianne Coleman’s academic career.

References

Biographical notes

Kay Fuller (Volume editor) Judith Harford (Volume editor)

Kay Fuller is Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and course leader of the MA in Educational Leadership and Management at the School of Education, University of Nottingham. She is a member of the Centre for Research in Educational Leadership and Management (CRELM), an elected member of the British Educational Leadership Management and Administration Society (BELMAS) Council and Co-Convenor of the BELMAS Gender and Leadership Research Interest Group, as well as an invited member of the worldwide network Women Leading Education. She has published internationally in the area of gender and educational leadership. Judith Harford is Professor of Education, Director of the Professional Master of Education (PME) and an elected member of the Academic Council at University College Dublin. She has published internationally on the history of women’s education, gender and educational leadership and teacher education policy. She is a Fellow of both the Royal Historical Society (London) and the Massachusetts Historical Society (USA) and an International Clinical Practice Fellow of the American Association of Teacher Educators. She is also the Ireland Canada University Foundation Flaherty Visiting Professor, 2017–18.

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