Gendered educational leadership: Perceptions, power, and paths

Jeffrey Scott Fecher, University of Pennsylvania


Gender inequities in leadership positions are evident in many institutions. Schools are not exempt from these inequities. Male dominance in principal positions has created a female leadership minority in schools. Women have had to overcome gender prejudices and limitations of access solely based on their gender. Stereotyped perceptions and expectations are placed on school leaders because of gender. School leaders may hold the same administrative positions; however, their paths to leadership and experiences within in it may differ dramatically because of gender. Less is known about gender differences among middle school leaders. The major questions which this study explored are: (1) How has gender shaped the leadership experiences and career paths of three middle school administrators in the same school? (2) How does the staff perceive these administrators based on gender? (3) To what extent is the relationship between the staff and the administration reciprocally affected by gender? The study examined these questions through surveys, interviews, focus groups. In particular, it engaged the administrative team collaboratively to explore the data and its own gender relationships. The study explored how gender shapes the experiences and paths of these school leaders. It illustrated to what extent these leaders faced gender inequities and in what ways, if any; have they battled negative perceptions and stereotypes. Within the setting, this case study contributed to the professional development of school administrators by expanding the knowledge base around gender in school leadership positions. More broadly, it adds to our knowledge of gender dynamics within middle school leadership and has implications for the ways leadership and gender may be explored. The data collected for this study provided many insights into the role that gender plays in educational leadership. Ultimately, three major conclusions surfaced from this study: public self v. private self where individuals purport different public values than their subconscious values, reciprocity where role definition and actions between staff and administration allow gender to influence the way they act toward each other, and collaborative inquiry as a valuable tool for gender discussion which became a powerful model for the administrative team in this study.

Subject Area

Womens studies|School administration|Secondary education|Gender

Recommended Citation

Fecher, Jeffrey Scott, "Gendered educational leadership: Perceptions, power, and paths" (2007). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3255853.