Some commonalities in the characteristics, perceptions, and experiences of selected female administrators
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The focus of this research was to discover some commonalities in the experiences, perceptions, and characteristics of female administrators in an urban school system in Saskatchewan. Within the categories of experiences, perceptions, and characteristics, the study included gender socialization, barriers to promotion, mentors and networking, perceptions of power, personality qualities, leadership styles and masculine versus feminine qualities. These provided the structure for the surveys and the focus group sessions. As only one system was being studied, the population sample was too small for random sampling. Instead, all female administrators with more than one year of experience in the system were invited to participate. Surveys were sent out and volunteers were asked to participate in a focus group session which aided to clarify the results of the surveys. The data from the surveys were presented together with the findings of the focus group sessions. This study found that female administrators in elementary and secondary schools do share some common characteristics, perceptions, and experiences in their roles. Many women had been teaching for over 10 years before being promoted into administration. They had actively searched out other leadership opportunities before applying for administration. The women were divided evenly between those who had mentors (usually male) and those who did not. These mentor relationships were informal as the school system did not have a formal mentorship program in place. Many female administrators either already had and were working on their Master’s degree. The elementary and high school principals as well as the high school assistant principals were primarily located at schools with smaller student populations, while the elementary vice principals were more evenly divided amongst schools of varying populations. Most of the women had been encouraged to apply for administration by their colleagues and administrators. Their families supported their decisions for the most part, but did not actively encourage them to seek promotion. These women decided to become administrators because they wanted to bring about change, wanted a challenge, or saw it as a natural progression in their career. Some women encountered barriers to promotion, mostly in being able to network as well as being the primary childcare giver at home. However, an overwhelming majority of women were hired as administrators after their first application. Most female administrators found it difficult to maintain a balance between their careers and their personal life, mostly due to family and career pressures. Yet, the married women acknowledged that their partners play a vital role in supporting them and helping make their career choices possible. The women felt marginalized from the staff, students and parents. They believed that people’s misperceptions of administrators in general were what led to this isolation. Many women challenged the traditions and policies of the school system, believing that change would bring positive outcomes. Most female administrators saw themselves as collaborative leaders and team players. They felt that open and trusting relationship with the staff were necessary for building community. They used consensus as the main method of decision-making. The women saw themselves as organized, enjoying people, having a sense of humour, being good listeners and communicators, being committed to education and being collaborative. This study has several implications. School systems should consider using formal mentorship programs. School boards need to be more sensitive to female administrators (or potential administrators) who become pregnant, rather than being more concerned with what is more convenient for the school board. School systems need to be more consistent and equitable with their job requirements and hiring practices. Selection committees need to be more aware of gender issues when conducting interviews for administration. Overall, school systems need to consider how their actions are affecting women in their system. Is the system fair for everyone? Most women are finding success as administrators but, as always, there is room for improvement in the system.
DegreeMaster of Education (M.Ed.)
CommitteeMcVittie, Janet; Hallman, Dianne M.; Billinton, Jack; Wimmer, Randy
Copyright DateJanuary 2004