Gender Equity In Schools And The New Educational Leaders

Gender Equity In Schools And The New Educational Leaders


To be a woman does not necessarily imply that one is disempowered. The basis for my analysis provides an opportunity to distinguish two components that have often been confused and confounded. With this challenge in mind, I scrutinized and probed educational management as a gendered construction.


At the same time, how might one understand gender as power? Because power can be problematic for women, I augmented the model of four social relationships of power with self and others. The enhanced model constitutes as difference and power relationships as central factors to be examined in a gendered construction of educational management.


Given the gendered construction of educational management, the contradictions of this alternative image of leader were not surprising. While the leader as mother highlighted a woman’s work in child care, nurturing, and caring for others, the depiction of mother in a home environment implied that she was out of place if she was out of her home. The metaphor reinforced the inappropriate nature of mothering in management and leadership. In considering the opposite for “mother,” the legitimacy of a father figure prevailed over alternatives such as a single or unwed parent.


The second metaphor specified a gender-neutral image, leader as visionary, with both women and men as equally likely candidates for such a position. Using the model and its component parts facilitated a closer examination of the gendered aspects that might distinguish a woman visionary from a man. For women and minorities, the metaphor suggests new possibilities for those who are not typically thought of as leaders or in leadership roles because one can become a leader by virtue of one’s vision. One can assume or claim power over others by one’s visionary direction. However, there can be an ongoing struggle to retain one’s position and sustain one’s legitimacy, especially in modes of power more commonly associated with men, such as power over others and personal power.


The combination of model and metaphor as a tool in analysis is useful because the blending of these devices forces an examination of educational management and leadership with women at the center, rather than at the periphery of the construction.


This is accomplished by examining the gender difference as separate from but interrelated to power. Further, by combining model and metaphor, the user is forced to scrutinize what might be taken for granted in juxtaposing something out of the realm of leadership, as with motherhood and visionaries. In this way, the analytic device achieved by blending model and metaphor advances feminist scholarship, enabling women to be studied on their own terms with their activities and experiences as the center of interest or activity, rather than taken as subordinate or deficient.


Given the importance of understanding and interpreting leadership for women, I believe we need to be attentive to the complexity of gender in at least three fundamental ways.


First, using more refined analytic devices, we can begin empirical investigations on specific cases and examine how gendered biases actually occur. I recommend that biographies of both men and women be probed to determine how gendered constructions operate within specific cultural representations. In addition, by incorporating text and narrative analyses together with lived experiences, researchers would be able to explore conceptualizations of leadership and management even further. Such research would capture different aspects of leadership such as sense making, problem solving, and politicizing.


Second, beyond individual case studies, we need to attend to the institutional norms and processes as established and sustained in the preparation and practice of educational administrators. A greater scrutiny is possible of the pipeline through which school administrators, women and men alike, are educated and socialized into their profession. With more discriminating analytic devices, we can examine how women and minorities enter into leadership positions and beyond that, what we expect of them, how we conceptualize their roles as educational leaders, and how we judge their performance against particular ideals. We can proceed to decipher the differences related to gender interwoven with categories of class, race, and ethnicity as well as confounded by issues of power and authority.


Third, we need to attend to the conceptualization of gender as confounded by socioeconomic, cultural, and situational contexts. A theoretical lens provides the capacity for investigating a particular construct or concept and proposing its relationship to others. Such a lens is tested when applied to the complexity of real life situations. Both gender and leadership manifest themselves differently and dynamically in the lives of educators in schools and school systems throughout the country. As we refine our theorizing about gender and leadership, and as we apply these analytic devices to actual situations, we will be better able to suggest and incorporate alternative styles of educational leadership and management.


Megan Wilson is a teacher, life strategist, successful entrepreneur, inspirational keynote speaker and founder of Megan champions a radical rethink of our school systems; she calls on educators to teach both intuition and logic to cultivate creativity and create bold thinkers.



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