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Gender and Leadership in Education

Women Achieving Against the Odds

Edited By 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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Mary Cunneen and Judith Harford - Gender Matters: Women’s Experience of the Route to Principalship in Ireland


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Gender Matters: Women’s Experience of the Route to Principalship in Ireland


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 countries, 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 ← 147 | 148 → is in the analysis of ‘what lies between’ (Acker 1992: 142) as opposed to the scrutiny of any one variable that new knowledge and understanding will be gleaned. Over recent decades, feminist researchers (notably Coleman 1996; Evetts, 1994; Fitzgerald 2003; Fuller 2009; Hall 1996; McLay 2008; Shakeshaft 1987; Sperandio 2010; Smith 2011a) have attempted to identify the impediments to principalship accession, with a particular emphasis on the perceived enabling and constraining influences. This scrutiny paves the way for a closer inspection of...

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