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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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Venturing into the Habitat of the Powerful: Women Leaders in Higher Education (Tanya Fitzgerald)


Tanya Fitzgerald Venturing into the Habitat of the Powerful: Women Leaders in Higher Education Introduction The subject of women in leadership has received increasing attention as more women occupy senior roles in politics, business, community organi- sations and across the public sector. Continuing evidence indicates that significant obstacles remain for capable women who aspire to these key leadership roles (Bagilhole and White 2011; Coleman 2011). Numerous studies have highlighted how women might effectively respond to these challenges and their struggles as newcomers to the terrain of leadership (Burke and Nelson 2002; Coleman 2010; Davidson and Burke 2004; Hayward 2005; Morley 2013). A fundamental difficulty that remains is that the image of the leader is resolutely masculine. As Sinclair (1998: 109) points out ‘even before they open their mouths or act, men are likely to be endowed with power and the potential for leadership’. It is this masculinity of power (Charles and Davies 2000) that reinforces gendered organisational hierarchies that preserve leadership as the pre- rogative of men. Women appointed to senior positions in organisations are highly visible and highly scrutinised. Very much the numerical minority in these roles across the public and private sector (Coleman 2011; Fitzgerald 2014; Morley 2013), women experience both vertical and horizontal segregation. One of the consequences is that women are frequently exposed to gendered expectations that serve to limit opportunities for leadership (Gherardi and Poggio 2007). The significant absence of women in senior posts is a recur- rent theme across public policy debates, and despite...

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