Women as educational leaders
: making our own bed - females as the feminist foe?

  • Anne Elspeth Mauger

    Student thesis: Coursework Masters - CDU


    The purposes of this study were: (i) to determine whether there were certain behaviours which could 'make' or 'break' a primary school principal as a leader, and (ii) to discover whether these behavioural expectations were consistent, irrespective of the gender of the school principal. Further to this, the study also considered whether females themselves might consciously or unconsciously place differing (higher) expectations upon a female leader (in this case a female primary school principal) in contrast to their expectations of a male leader.

    A series of five behavioural expectations were drawn from existing academic literature from both the leadership and feminist fields. This material was used to construct two questionnaires which were administered across six medium to large Darwin primary schools in late 1996. A total sample of 53 teaching staff (at all levels, and including three principals) responded to the survey. Six of the respondents then participated in an individual interview session.

    The two survey formats differed only in the respect that one version featured examples which referred to the behaviour of a series of mate principals, whilst the second featured the same examples, but attributed them to female principals. These two formats were randomly distributed across the six schools. Data collected from the sample was analysed firstly by considering the total percentage response to each set of the identified behaviours according to a five point Likert scale. This gave a very good indications of which of the five identified behaviours were significant (in either a positive or negative sense) in terms of expected leadership behaviour.

    Next, t-tests were conducted companng responses to the two questionnaire formats to determine whether there were any statistically significant differences between the responses of those replying to the 'male' questionnaire and those responding to the 'female' one. T-tests were applied to the total group, and also to a sub-group covering female respondents only. It was not possible to consider a male only sub-group of respondents because the sample size of this subgroup was too small to give accurate statistical information. The follow-up interviews were utilised to gain useful insights as to why participants in the survey may have responded as they did.

    The survey results indicated that four of the five behaviours identified in the literature were seen to be highly significant in terms of 'making' or 'breaking' a leader. There were statistically significant differences in the level of expectation placed upon females as compared to males for two of these behaviours, even though the expectation on both genders tended strongly in the one direction. In the case of female respondents only, there was a significant difference in the level of expectation placed on a female (as opposed to male) leader in one of the two significant behaviours, indicating that, at least in some circumstances, females themselves place higher expectations upon female leaders than they do upon male leaders.
    Date of Award1997
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorJim Cameron (Supervisor)

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