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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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Pontso Moorosi - Patriarchal Bargain for African Women in Leadership: Deal or No Deal?


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Patriarchal Bargain for African Women in Leadership: Deal or No Deal?


Marianne Coleman’s work has consistently challenged gendered stereotypes that rendered women powerless in leadership positions in both education and the private sector. In challenging these stereotypes, Coleman’s attention has been focused on the role women continue to play in the home despite their success in the boardroom and in leadership positions. For Coleman, (and many others) this unequal distribution of roles and responsibilities in the home, benefits men and works against the advancement and progression of women in leadership, thereby perpetuating the gender inequality. In her latest book, Women at the Top: Challenges, Choices and Change, Coleman (2011) presents a compelling analysis of women’s experiences of success against challenges they face in the domineering masculine cultures of the workplace and difficult choices they have had to make in the path towards change. This inspiring piece of work, breaks boundaries by not only examining women’s experiences of success in leadership, but by problematising the gendered intricacy between challenge, choice and change, across the different sectors. In celebrating Coleman’s scholarship, this chapter will draw on findings from research that examined constructions of masculinities by corporate male and female leaders in South Africa, with specific focus on women’s experiences of navigating a balance between family and work. The chapter will make a comparison between these African women’s experiences and those examined in Coleman’s work. It will argue that in negotiating...

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