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The female secondary headteacher in England and Wales: leadership and management styles

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This paper reports on data relating to management and leadership derived from a survey of all the female headteachers in England and Wales. The quantitative data presented here are complementary to previous research on gender in education which has tended to be qualitative. The use of the Gray paradigms in the research instrument has allowed an empirical redefinition of the 'feminine' style of management, but the research confirms that the majority of the female heads use a collaborative and 'people-oriented' style of management. In addition, the key values promoted by the headteachers are related to achievement and respect for all.The headteachers generally make themselves available to staff and spend a considerable proportion of their time in school outside their office. They tend to encourage staff development, often through individual consultation, but only a minority make special provision for the development of female teachers. Male resentment of female leadershipwas found to be relatively prevalent and the majority of the women felt they had to 'prove their worth' as a woman manager. Despite the difficulties encountered, once the women had achieved headship, they were aware that there were advantages in being a woman headteacher. They reported the ability to defuse 'macho' behaviour, the benefits of being unusual and therefore singled out and the fact that girls, mothers and female teachers found them approachable. The relative disproportion of female secondary headteachers raises issues of equity. However, in view of the effective management style of the majority, the question is also raised of the potential loss of leadership to our schools.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2000

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