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Gender and Leadership in Education

Women Achieving Against the Odds

Kay Fuller and Judith Harford

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?


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Gender Matters: Women’s Experience of the Route to Principalship in Ireland (Mary Cunneen and Judith Harford)


Mary Cunneen and Judith Harford Gender Matters: Women’s Experience of the Route to Principalship in Ireland Introduction Research suggests that school leadership globally remains a male dominated arena and that the image of the leader continues to remain effectively vested in the masculine (Coleman 2003, 2011; Fitzgerald 2015). This situation obtains despite the fact that teaching is a profession which, in many coun- tries, is dominated by women. In the Irish context, men continue to hold a disproportionate number of senior posts across all sections of education (Lynch, Grummell and Devine 2012) with men twice as likely as women to accede to the position of post-primary school principal (Department of Education and Skills 2012).1 Why then is a profession dominated by women promoting a disproportionate number of males to the ranks of its leadership? This is a complex field involving the intersection of a range of influences of a cultural, societal, organisational and personal nature and it 1 Post-primary education in the Republic of Ireland is executed through the medium of three sectors; the voluntary secondary sector, the community and comprehen- sive sector and the Educational and Training Boards. The origins of these sectors are historically, culturally and religiously defined. Churches of both Catholic and Protestant persuasions, having once owned and managed the majority of schools, have extended influence over voluntary secondary schools via Boards of Management and Trusteeships. They constitute the bulk of post-primary education. The state owned Community and Comprehensive sector are managed by Boards of Management...

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