The New Politics of Race and Gender: The 1992 Yearbook of the Politics of Education Association

By Catherine Marshall | Go to book overview

14

Politics of denial: Gender and race issues in administration1

Catherine Marshall

This micro-political analysis of administrators’ careers demonstrates what happens with token compliance with affirmative action. While learning the norms of the administrative career, women and minority site administrators learn to deny and suppress the discomforts, struggles, exclusionary and different treatments they experience. In a traditionalistic political culture, in a southern urban district whose school leadership positions remained white male-dominated through the eras of desegregation and affirmative action, women and minorities who attained administrative positions learned to keep a low profile.

When women or minority administrators enter a career sensing that affirmative action is a low priority, how do they manage? Using case-studies of the recruitment and early career experiences of principals and assistant principals, this chapter presents research identifying a pattern of women and minority administrators’ denial and belittlement of the impact of exclusion and tokenism in their careers.


Moving beyond administrator socialization theory

Most studies of administrators’ careers emphasize socialization, looking at managerial role functions, mobility and career stages (Blood 1966, Bridges 1965, Brim and Wheeler 1966, Greenfield 1985, Gross and Trask 1976, Mascaro 1973, McCabe 1972, Mintzberg 1973, Peterson 1984, Van Maanan and Schein 1979). Ethnographic studies and case-studies emphasize the cultural press on administrators (for example, Wolcott’s The Man in the Principal’s Office, 1973, and Blumberg and Greenfield’s The Effective Principal: Perspectives on School Leadership, 1980). Concepts like ‘organizational space’ (Katz and Kahn 1978, Ortiz 1982) and ‘career-role strain’ (Marshall 1979) have been used to organize thinking about the salient influences on school administrators’ role formulation. Career decision-making and mobility studies add important concepts such as ‘anticipatory socialization’ (Merton 1964); the importance of being in an ‘opportunity position’ (Kanter 1977), career stages; and the different kinds of boundaries in organizational careers (Schein 1978, Van Maanan and Schein 1979).

However, these theoretical models have not responded to challenges to the bureaucratic model (Clark and Meloy 1988, Ferguson 1984), feminist theory and research (Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger and Tarule 1986, Dunlap 1989, Gilligan 1982), and recent criticisms of organization and leadership theory for its white male bias and its inherent fallacies (McCall and Lombardo 1978, Shakeshaft 1986).

When theory, and the models and practices that flow from theory, ignore the fact that those structural characteristics filter out women and minorities, then theory is missing a large chunk of the picture. First, research on women and minorities needs to be included in discussions of leadership and organizational socialization. Powerful structural characteristics of organizational life are at work to maintain homogeneity among

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